Another wave of anti-lockdown protests gained traction this week. This time, demonstrators showed up outside the Lansing home of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday in a gathering they called, “Operation Queen’s Castle.” Protestors brought with them a Trump Unity Bridge float decorated with American flags and the words “Trump Unity,” along with signs reading, “Unite America,” and "Making America Great Again." The same float appeared at the president’s 2017 inauguration and the Women’s March that year.
Michigan has seen an uptick in coronavirus cases in the last month, with the fourth highest death rate in the country as of early April. As a result, Gov. Whitmer has put in place a number of strict guidelines around social distancing that make it illegal to visit neighbors, for example. On Friday morning, the governor’s office said it would relax some of these measures, allowing services like plant nurseries and bike repair shops to reopen with social distancing rules. But the state’s stay-at-home order remains in effect through at least May 15.
Gov. Whitmer’s guidelines have been unpopular among her rightwing constituents, who have now held two separate anti-lockdown protests. On April 15, thousands of people rallied outside the state capitol in Lansing, blocking traffic and carrying weapons while not donning protective face coverings, to protest the state's stay-at-home order. The governor criticized the demonstration, called “Operation Gridlock,” as a “a political rally that is going to endanger people's lives.”
Thursday’s protest was a continuation of more of the same, with protestors demanding Gov. Whitmer to reopen the state. “Governor Whitmer said that she'll talk to anybody to get the state back open,” said Rob Cortis, who operated the Trump Unity Bridge float. “Well, I'm here and I'm with people and others and we want the state open.”
Brandon Hall, the organizer of Thursday’s protest claimed the governor is not following her own stay-at-home orders, telling local news outlet Up North Live, “Gretchen Whitmer is tyranny, this is like a third world country."
Another protestor, Patricia Stephanoff, brought a sign to the demonstration that called out the governor for apparently ruining Mother’s Day due to the state’s guidelines. “No Mother's Day, no flowers, no family, no money,” the sign read. Stephanoff further criticized the unemployment rate in the state, telling USA TODAY, “We're not meant to be stashed away in our homes like insects stuck in amber. With unemployment as it is...that will kill people."
Although more than one million people have filed for unemployment in Michigan over a period of five weeks, including 134,000 new filings last week alone, anti-lockdown protests are now proving to be a danger to society. In Kentucky, a spike in coronavirus cases followed similar protest measures, and experts say that opening states too early will certainly lead to another outbreak in the Winter if we are not careful. Still, as President Trump urges protestors to continue using their second amendment rights, it's hard to see an end to this activity — even when it reaches the home of state official's like Whitmer.