A Michigan sheriff opposed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order told a crowd of more than 200 that the governor’s quarantine measures are akin to mass arrest of the state’s residents.
“What’s the definition of an arrest? It’s basically taking away your free will, your right to move about,” Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf told the crowd in downtown Grand Rapids.
“And an unlawful arrest is when you do it unlawfully, so when you are ordered to your home, are you under arrest? Yeah, by definition you are.”
Leaf was one of a half dozen speakers, and the only sheriff, to speak Monday evening, May 18, at the Michigan Patriots Rally – Sheriffs Speak Out at Rosa Parks Circle.
Riffing on the location, Leaf called Owosso barber Karl Manke, who opened despite the governor’s order, a “little version of Rosa Parks,” and asked the crowd to imagine what would’ve happened if Parks never sat in the front of the bus.
The two-and-a-half hour rally protesting the stay-at-home order to curb the COVID-19 pandemic was peaceful and filled with musical interludes between speakers. Among the crowd members was a man hawking Trump 2020 flags, a woman dressed as Whitmer but with an Adolf Hitler mustache penciled on and a person holding a sign of Bill Gates with a syringe that reads him as saying, “Your body, my choice.”
Grand Rapids police were stationed outside the bounds of the event, and security flanking the stage was run by Michigan militia members with tactical gear and assault-style rifles.
The event came just hours after Whitmer announced that residents of the Upper Peninsula and much of the northern Lower Peninsula will be able to eat and shop at non-essential retail stores again starting Friday.
The reopening does come with the caveat that businesses need to enact safety measures and reduced business capacities to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Leaf acknowledged the news, saying Whitmer “took some wind out of my sails” but suggested it should’ve happened much sooner because of the small reported case numbers in these counties.
As of Monday, May 18, state health officials say there are 51,915 reported COVID-19 cases in the state and 4,915 associated deaths. Michigan has the fourth highest death toll in the U.S.
Alma resident Patrick Burns, who was at the Grand Rapids rally, is no stranger to these stay-at-home protests; he’s been to three at the state Capitol and the one over the weekend at Grand Haven State Park.
The reasons for his attendance are simple, and they were standing next to him: he attends these rallies for his young son and daughter.
“I’m here for my kids,” Burns said. “I feel like Gretchen Whitmer is ruining their future.”
Burns said he worries about the economic toll, as well as the reductions in school time and funding, that his children will suffer because of the economic shutdown.
Education was a point Leaf touched on during his speech. He criticized state money going toward the University of Michigan, a public university, and said it’s money that’s supposed to be going into public schools.
“We need a good, strong school system, otherwise I need a bigger jail,” he said, drawing some laughs from the crowd.
Leaf celebrated Michigan militia members working security detail at the event. He said militia members are the last line of defense against overreaching government after local governments fail to keep the state in check.
The recognition drew chants of “USA” from the crowd.
“This is our last home defense right here, ladies and gentlemen,” Leaf said.
Among the speakers Monday was Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. The Republican lawmaker encouraged the crowd to continue to do “precisely what you’re doing today.”
“Be ready to test and challenge government when they get it backasswards and they think they’re the ones who have the rights to give us, when really the government is to provide and protect our rights,” Shirkey said.
The Michigan House and Senate are currently in a legal battle with Whitmer that challenges her extension of the state of emergency without the authority of the legislature.
While Shirkey said he couldn’t talk about the lawsuit’s progress, he promised the crowd “we will prevail.”
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside enclosed, public spaces.
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