LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Protesters gathered in the rain at the Michigan Capitol Building Thursday, demonstrating in opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders that shut down businesses and told people to stay home to slow the spread of the virus.
This is the third such protest in Lansing. The first in mid-April mostly involved people staying in their cars and clogging traffic around the Capitol. At the second on April 30, protesters were on foot on the lawn and then inside the building. Some were armed, sparking debate about whether guns should be banned on Capitol grounds.
Many protesters showed up Thursday armed with assault rifles. Michigan State Police said if troopers see anyone brandishing a weapon, that person could be arrested.
“While Michigan is an open carry state, if you decide to exercise that right, make sure that you are not brandishing that weapon in any manner, shape or form — and that is holding it in manner or waving it or pointing it at someone that inflicts fear on a reasonable person,” MSP Lt. DuWayne Robinson warned protesters in a series of videos posted on Twitter Wednesday.
MSP said it will be working with the state attorney general and Ingham County prosecutor to make sure the protest is peaceful.
“Our primary goal is to protect the Capitol and make this a safe environment for people who choose to come here to demonstrate,” MSP Lt. Brian Oleksyk said in the thread of Twitter videos.
MSP urged protesters to adhere to 6-foot social distancing guidelines and wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus. It said troopers would be wearing masks.
News 8’s crew at the Capitol Thursday reported that some protesters were seen without masks and ignoring social distancing guidelines.
Many protesters want Whitmer to ease restrictions on what businesses can operate so more people can go back to work. Others say she has overstepped the bounds of her authority and infringed upon their liberties.
Whitmer has said she’s not going to bow to protesters, noting most people are obeying her orders and that they have worked to slow the spread of the virus. She says her decisions will be based on data and advice from medical and scientific experts.
The latest data from the state shows coronavirus has sickened nearly 48,400 in Michigan and killed more than 4,700.
MSP told News 8 that authorities asked two people to remove signs that were set up before 6 a.m. Thursday at the steps of the Capitol Building.
**CORRECTION: It was previously reported that two people were removed from the Capitol after leaving items at the steps of the building. That was incorrect. The story has since been corrected.