Michigan governor says legislators 'didn't want to be around' for anti-lockdown protests 'they incited'

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said legislators "didn't want to be around" as dozens of demonstrators gathered at the steps of the state capitol to protest her stay-at-home order, prompting the building to close

Posted: May 15, 2020 2:04 PM


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday legislators "didn't want to be around" as dozens of demonstrators gathered at the steps of the state capitol to protest her stay-at-home order, prompting the building to close on Thursday.

"You know, the legislature apparently didn't want to be around for ... this activity that many of them incited, frankly, and so that's why apparently they decided not to come into work yesterday," Whitmer, a Democrat, told CNN's John Berman on "New Day."

Both chambers of the state legislature -- Senate and House -- were out of session on Thursday with plans to adjourn until next Tuesday. The House was out of session because they had already finished voting for the week, according to Gideon D'Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

Meanwhile, the Senate did not reply to CNN's request for comments as to why they had adjourned until next week. The chamber's online calendar shows that Michigan's 38 senators have been in session Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for the last two weeks, with the same schedule planned for next week. The absence of the legislators led the Michigan State Police to close the Capitol to the public per protocol.

Although a Washington Post/Ipsos poll released earlier this week found 72% of state residents overall approve of Whitmer's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, several state Republicans have strongly objected to the measures and signaled support for the demonstrators by filing a lawsuit earlier this month.

Ahead of the demonstration, which included some armed individuals, Chatfield said on Twitter, "I disagree with many of the governor's decisions. I've been very open about that. I also support the right to protest," before condemning the death threats against the governor.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey echoed a similar sentiment on Twitter Tuesday, saying "There are many people who are confused and upset about what's going on. They have reached out and have done so without threatening harm. And we are listening to them."

Thursday's protest was the latest in a series of public backlashes against Whitmer, a Democrat, who early on in the Covid-19 crisis issued expansive executive orders closing non-essential business and restricting movement and has been steady in her policy of a slow economic reopening of the state amid growing calls to relax social distancing measures. Whitmer is facing at least one lawsuit against her restrictive measures from US Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Republican.

The protesters have been supported by President Donald Trump, who tweeted "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" in April and has continued to show support for protests of Democratic governors in recent weeks. Trump has frequently criticized Whitmer because of her criticisms of the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of the rally, Whitmer on ABC's "The View" on Wednesday said that the protests would make it more likely that the state will have to keep restrictions in place longer.

Earlier this month, Whitmer extended the Michigan's stay-at-home order through May 28, while also unveiling a six-phase plan to avoiding a second wave of infections.

Whitmer also said on "New Day" she called on Vice President Mike Pence to help her discourage these protests during a recent call with the nation's governors.

"I've asked a couple of times and both times it was acknowledged that I had made the request. But I think that people, anyone with a platform has the responsibility to try to encourage people to do the right thing and to stay safe," Whitmer said.

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