In Michigan, right wing militia groups plan to protest at the state capitol building on Thursday to protest Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders that she put in place to slow the deadly spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday’s demonstration will be the latest in a series of protests that started as a demonstration against the lockdown policy but are now developing fears of an eruption of political violence.
At the moment, the state is currently investigating what the Michigan attorney general, Dana Nessel, characterized on Monday as “credible threats” against state Democratic politicians. Sources from metro times state that dozens of angry Michiganders, fueled by conspiracy theories and disinformation about the coronavirus, are promoting violence and mobilizing armed rallies against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Facebook, in violation of the social media company’s policies.
An April 30th protest showed militia members carrying assault rifles while glaring and shouting from the galleries of the state legislature as an emotional debate over extending a stay-at-home order took place. Because of that, sources from The Guardian a black lawmaker came to Michigan’s capitol last week with an escort of armed black citizens.
Other states have been hit harder by the pandemic than Michigan. Wayne county, which holds the city of Detroit, has recorded some of the country’s highest rates of infection. Whitmer has instituted some of the country’s strictest emergency orders in order to control the virus’ spread. Polls have consistently shown the state’s residents approve by a wide margin of how she’s managed the crisis.
However, some residents of rural counties contend they should not be subjected to the orders because the infection rates in their communities are relatively low. That message has frequently gotten lost as the demonstrations turned into a flashpoint in the bitter debate over gun rights, and a forum for making political statements and threats against Democrats.
During a state senate session on Tuesday, the state senator Mallory McMorrow said the protests and threats are now “about spreading blood on the front lawn of this building”.
“These folks are thugs and their tactics are despicable,” the Republican state senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, said during Tuesday’s session. “It is never OK to threaten the safety or life of another person, elected or otherwise, period.”
Democrats called for the state to ban guns in the state capitol building. The Republicans, however, control the legislature and are resisting that push.
The first and the largest protest, called “Operation Gridlock”, was partly organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a grassroots political organizing group. Meshawn Maddock, one of its founders, said on Monday that the group is no longer involved.
“I would appreciate it if others would do their part to try and lower the heat,” Whitmer said. “If you choose to demonstrate I ask that you wear a mask and stay 6ft apart from others.”