LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, and some of the restrictions in it, are stirring up protest.
The Michigan Conservative Coalition will join others in Lansing, not on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol, but on the streets outside it on Wednesday to protest the order.
Organizers are calling the event Operation Gridlock. Their plan is to tie up traffic to get their message across.
“Basically, it’s an exercise in civil disobedience for people all over the state to be involved in,” said Matt Seely with the Michigan Conservative Coalition. “People are basically being told what they can and can’t buy at stores. Nothing makes sense. You can buy a bottle of liquor, but you can’t buy a gallon of paint.”
So members of the coalition and others are set to get in their vehicles on Wednesday and drive to Lansing to create as much of a traffic jam as possible.
“We’d like them to display flags, signs, paint vehicles if they like. Honk their horns, brings noise makers,” Seely said.
The coalition has set ground rules for its members. They must stay in their vehicles and there should only be one person per vehicle unless the passenger is from the same household, in an effort to follow social distancing guidelines.
“We want to be respectful of people’s health at this point. But at the same time, we want to have our voice be heard,” Seely told News 8. “I think most of us still believe there (are) reasonable quarantines that need to take place. I think, right now, we understand that we’re not going to be able to go to sporting events concerts or gather in large groups.”
The coalition is asking the governor to take what it believes to be a more measured approach that would allow certain parts of work and daily life to start returning to normal.
“I think that people understand now what they need to do from a diligence standpoint, for their personal hygiene,” Seely said. Washing their hands, washing their faces. Even wearing mask in public.”
“We have a lot more information that we had six weeks ago. And I think that people should be given the opportunity, if it is working in their life, for them to go back to their jobs. And if that’s an option at this point, who’s to say what’s an essential job or not? They’re essential to that individual,” he continued.
Michigan State Police are working with Lansing police, who have jurisdiction over city streets, to make sure protesters can exercise their free speech rights and still stay within the executive order guidelines.
MSP First Lt. Darren Green, who heads up the state capitol security detail, says both agencies will monitor the situation.
Additional state troopers will be on hand, not in response to the protest, but because it’s a Wednesday when weekly schedules overlap, resulting in more troopers on duty.
“If it gets to the point it escalates into property damage or violates the executive order, we will reassess,” Green told News 8.
And that could be the challenge.
Other groups are joining the Michigan Conservative Coalition, raising the question of how much control the organizations will have over those taking part in the rally.
One of those groups is Michigan United for Liberty. A spokesperson for the organization says that while some members will take part in Operation Gridlock from behind the wheel, others plan to be on foot at the capitol.
But they plan to abide by the governor’s executive order.
“Our right to protest is protected under the constitution, and Whitmer has since clarified that protesting is exempt from the executive orders. So long as we are socially distancing, I do not have any concerns about any potential violations. Most people bring measuring tapes with them,” said Michigan United for Liberty founder Wendy Darling.
“If another group wants to piggyback on what we’re doing and then come up with their own idea on how this protest is going to play out, that’s really on them.” Seely said.