On Thursday, hundreds of protesters, many of them carrying guns, descended on Michigan’s state capitol to oppose Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of the state’s stay-at-home order by another two weeks, to May 15.
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump wrote. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
It is unclear what kind of a “deal” Trump was referring to. While Whitmer moved to extend the order, telling citizens to stay home and keeping nonessential businesses shut, she also relaxed some of the restrictions from original stay-at-home’s order.
Michigan residents are still required to practice social distancing, but are now allowed to travel between their main and second homes, go out boating, and play golf.
The state, one of the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,is not close to meeting the Trump administration’s own guidelines of experiencing 14 days of declining positive cases in order to start re-opening and lifting stay-at-home orders.
As of Thursday, Michigan health officials had reported more than 41,000 COVID-19 cases in the state and 3,789 deaths, with 980 new cases and 119 new deaths reported on Wednesday alone.
Also on Thursday, the Republican-led Michigan House of Representatives declined to approve Whitmer’s extension of Michigan’s state-of-emergency declaration for another 28 days by executive order, and it authorized a lawsuit challenging her emergency authority.
Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, now extended to May 15, and emergency order, extended to May 28, will keep “places of accommodation” like restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and gyms from providing in-person services, while still allowing restaurants to offer take-out and delivery.
Protesters have demonstrated against stay-at-home orders at state capitols in dozens of states. But Thursday’s protests in Michigan were the starkest example yet of protesters actually entering a state capitol while the legislature was in session – and bringing weapons with them.
Jarring photos and videos shot that day at the capitol showed militia members and other protesters armed with rifles bringing their weapons into the state capitol building
Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today. #mileg pic.twitter.com/voOZpPYWOs
— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020
Members of a militia group stand near the doors to the chamber in the Michigan state capitol before the vote on the extension of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. More images of Americans protesting coronavirus restrictions: https://t.co/outazANWyS ???? @Seth_Herald pic.twitter.com/uYGUpHUkoL
— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) May 1, 2020
Protest moves inside Michigan Capitol. Crowd attempts to get onto Hoise floor. Lots of Michigan State Police and House sergeants at arms blocking door. pic.twitter.com/4FNQpimP4W
— Rod Meloni (@RodMeloni) April 30, 2020
At the Michigan capitol building today in Lansing. Photos by Jeff Kowalsky (AFP via Getty) pic.twitter.com/Zf1QdypnNr
— Dan Zak (@MrDanZak) April 30, 2020
As both State Representative Mari Manoogian and the news outlet Michigan Live have explained, long-standing Michigan capitol rules prohibit people from bringing protest signs into the building over fears that the sticks that often prop up signs and posters could scratch the paint on the building’s walls.
Michigan is an open-carry state, however, and there are no rules barring people from bringing guns into the Michigan capitol.
“It’s always been on the books – even before the last constitutional convention – the right to open carry in Michigan,” Sergeant Jeffrey Held of the Michigan State Police told Michigan Live.
“We just worry about damaging the walls, because on the decorative paint, a sign turning the wrong way or even a rifle can gouge the thing,” Michigan capitol facilities manager Steve Benkovsky told the outlet.
“Until one of the legislators comes up and says let’s make this a weapon-free zone, or they put in some stipulation like you can’t bring long rifles in here but you can wear sidearms, I’ve got to live with it,” Benkovsky added. “It’s not a fun thing though. It’s tough.”