Michigan Governor Responds to Lockdown Protests: No Health Decisions Based on ‘Political Games’

May 1, 2020 Updated: May 1, 2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday responded to anti-lockdown protests and claims she is abusing her authority by extending restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying that she “is not going to make decisions about our public health based on political games.”

Whitmer made the remarks on Friday, a day after hundreds of people protested at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing against her stay-at-home order, one of the strictest in the nation, which was extended until May 15. It includes not allowing people to travel to other homes under most conditions and bars the sale of items deemed nonessential at many stores.

State legislative approval of Whitmer’s state of emergency declaration, which gives her special executive powers, was set to expire after Thursday.

She asked for a 28-day extension, though Republican lawmakers in control of the statehouse instead voted on bills to replace the state of emergency and her executive orders with “a normal democratic process,” according to a statement from House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

GOP lawmakers, who want more input on gradually restarting the economy, also voted to authorize a lawsuit challenging her authority and actions.

Outside, protesters held placards with slogans like “Shut down the lockdown,” and “No work no freedom.”

“The virus is here. It’s going to be here. … It’s time to let people go back to work. That’s all there is to it,” Joni George, of Flushing, told The Associated Press.

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Protesters gather outside the state capitol building before the vote on the extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency declaration stay-at-home order, in Lansing, Michigan, on April 30, 2020. (Seth Herald/Reuters)
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Members of the Michigan Liberty Militia, including Phil Robinson, right, join protesters at a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on April 30, 2020. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)

Whitmer acknowledged that “everyone is entitled to their opinion” but insisted that conditions relating to the outbreak remained severe enough to justify a state of emergency and continued restrictions in the interest of public health.

“For anyone to declare mission accomplished means they are turning a blind eye to the fact that over 600 people have died in the last 72 hours,” she said of the rising death count in Michigan due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged from mainland China last year.

“I’m not going to make decisions based on political games. I’m going to make them on the best science, the best data, what our epidemiologists and public health experts are telling us,” she said.

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Michigan, on April 13, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

Whitmer on Thursday issued directives both proclaiming that the COVID-19 emergency continues and declaring new states of emergency and disaster after the Republican-controlled Legislature refused her request for a 28-day extension. The declarations are the foundation of her stay-at-home order and other measures to curb the spread of the CCP virus. These include extending the closure of bars, casinos, and other public places through May 28, and prolonging a ban on dining in at restaurants.

After calling for continued vigilance and actions to help curb the spread of the virus, she told C-SPAN that lifting restrictions would be based on progress in the fight against the virus, as evidenced in infection and death count data.

“If we’re smart, and we all continue to do our part that we can start to turn that dial and re-engage safely,” she said. “But we have to stay smart. Politics has no business when we’re talking about saving lives.”

Whitmer in the past week let some businesses reopen and announced that commercial and residential construction can resume next week.

In a tweet Friday, President Donald Trump urged Whitmer to “give a little,” saying she should “make a deal” with protesters calling her to reopen the state.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump said. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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