Gov. Gretchen Whitmer acknowledged on national TV Wednesday that violent rhetoric aimed at her and others amid protests against her orders to combat the spread of coronavirus is unsettling but will have no effect on her decisions.
“I would not be truthful if I said it didn’t bother me — it certainly does,” Whitmer said on ABC’s “The View,” referring to comments posted on social media and elsewhere, some of which have expressed extreme and racist views and suggested she be harmed or killed.
With another protest set at the state Capitol for Thursday morning, however, Whitmer said she will continue to let science guide her views on how best to protect Michiganders. Michigan has been one of the hardest hit states in the country and she reiterated her contention that her stay-at-home order has helped keep the number of cases and deaths lower than they otherwise would have been.
She also credited Michigan State Police with keeping her and others safe.
Whitmer went on the program remotely from Lansing, appearing with hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Meghan McCain, Sunny Hostin and Sara Haines.
In recent weeks, Whitmer has been easing up somewhat on restrictions, but the New York Times reported an analysis of statistic from cellphone applications that showed Michigan saw the greatest increase in the nation among people moving around outside their homes despite her stay-at-home order still being in place.
Protests against her orders resulted in large gatherings in April, including one on April 30 that saw some protesters with guns gathered outside the House chamber at the state Capitol and in the state Senate gallery. Some lawmakers said that even though guns are allowed in the Capitol, it was intimidating and they felt threatened.
Whitmer — who the Detroit Metro Times first reported this week has been the subject of violent posts on private Facebook groups linked to organizations that have protested the orders — said she expects more of the same at Thursday’s protests.
“The fact of the matter is the Michigan Capitol is one of the few in the country where people can come bearing guns… What we anticipate seeing tomorrow is people using those guns to intimidate others.”
She said while she appreciates people’s right to protest, “it does not extend to endangering other people’s lives.”
A host on The View actually asks a real question about Whitmer’s most stringent prohibitions. What a convenient time for the satellite to go out.
While the state Legislature has taken no move to bar guns from the Capitol, and a commission tasked with maintaining the grounds is studying the issue, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said Tuesday he supports state police arresting anyone who is seen to be “brandishing” a weapon in such a way as to threaten others.
Whitmer said on “The View” that there could be many reasons that Michigan has been a center of protests, including its status as a battleground in the presidential election.
She said she does believe the protests have put people more at risk of contracting the virus, since some protesters have ignored rules to wear face coverings and maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and others.
“I do think the fact of the matter is these protesters in a perverse way make it likelier we’re going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” she said, noting her administration’s stance that it will reinstate tougher sanctions if case numbers begin to climb at a faster rate again. “The whole point of them presumably is that they don’t want to do that.”
She again asked that officials discourage such protests. ABC News reported that on a call with other governors with Vice President Mike Pence this week, she said she’d be “grateful” if he could spread that message and that she was worried that the protests could lead to the virus spreading in rural areas.
Contact Todd Spangler at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.
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