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Gov Whitmer: Police ‘monitoring conversations’ of lockdown protesters in Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton/released).
May 14, 2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revealed Michigan State Police were monitoring protest groups ahead of planned demonstrations at the state capital in Lansing on Thursday.

Whitmer made her remarks during a Wednesday coronavirus press conference, during which she was asked if she would prefer to see police ticketing protesters who failed to wear masks or maintain adequate social distancing during protests planned at the capitol on Thursday.

While not saying directly if such arrests would be made, Whitmer said, “I think the Michigan State Police is monitoring all of the conversations around this event tomorrow – that they are prepared and are working with the attorney general.”

Whitmer’s remarks appear in approximately 46:00 in the video below.

The actual extent to which police were monitoring the communications of protesters was not immediately clear by Whitmer’s remarks.

Reuters reported that the protests were planned in opposition to Whitmer’s extended lockdown orders throughout the state. The group behind the protest, Michigan United for Liberty was formed in response to Whitmer’s original orders, which she put in place in April and which they view as unconstitutional.

Earlier in her Wednesday press conference, Whitmer said, “I don’t particularly want to see people congregating period. We know that that contributes to the spread, but if people are going to come down and demonstrate, do it in a responsible way.”

Whitmer suggested that prior protests have correlated to increased coronavirus cases in the state, but could not make that claim with certainty.

“I saw one report— I don’t have proof. I’m not following everybody home and taking their temperatures and watching them for two weeks,” she said. “But here’s what we know, when COVID-19, the way that it spread is person-to-person contact. That it can stay in the air for a while, that it is when you’re closer than six feet not wearing masks. It is when you are touching one another. We saw a lot of that at these protests at the capitol and that’s how COVID-19 spreads.”

One of the first protest actions in April at the Lansing capitol building saw protesters in their cars, lined up in the streets around the capitol, honking their car horns. In another protest on April 30, hundreds of protesters flooded into the statehouse, in opposition to Whitmer’s decision to extend her executive orders outlining the state lockdown.

Before the latest protest, Democratic lawmakers sought to ban guns at the capitol, though the Republican controlled legislature voted to maintain the existing laws allowing firearms inside the statehouse.

“No one should have to go to work and feel intimidated,” Whitmer said. “Making the capitol a gun-free zone is important in making people feel they can do their job safely.”

According to Reuters, Michigan State Police (MSP) Col. Joe Gasper and Attorney General Dana Nessel warned protesters to be safe and respectful and told them against refusing law enforcement commands or brandishing firearms.

On Thursday Michigan State Police reported one altercation that ended without injury.

“There was an incident between two demonstrators, in which one demonstrator tried to take a sign out of another demonstrator’s hand. There are no injuries and no arrests were made. The victim is a 60-year-old male,” Michigan State Police tweeted. “One individual involved in the earlier altercation was in possession of an ax. The ax was safely turned into law enforcement. There were no injuries.”

“It’s currently raining. Thank you to those who have stopped to express their appreciation to our troopers,” Michigan State Police tweeted earlier on Thursday morning.