Protesters gather outside the governor's Lansing residence over stay-home order

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
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Lansing — Dozens of people gathered outside Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Lansing residence Thursday to protest the ongoing restrictions in the governor's stay-home order. 

A small group of protesters gathers in front of the Michigan Governor's Mansion in Lansing on Thursday. They were protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order enacted to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Protesters carried American flags, Trump 2020 signs and Make America Great Again banners as they stood on sidewalks and in the governor's gated driveway. Some protesters carried firearms while others waited in their cars, honking horns in the residential neighborhood. 

A little before 1 p.m., roughly two dozen cars proceeded through the neighborhood led by the "Trump Unity Bridge" truck and trailer that is present at many Michigan rallies for Republican President Donald Trump. 

Michigan State Police cars were scattered throughout the neighborhood as were yard signs expressing support for their neighbor, the Democratic governor. 

Organizer Brandon Hall of Petoskey estimated roughly 100 people attended the afternoon protest, which occurred roughly two weeks into an extended, tightened stay-home order that bans travel to in-state vacation homes, motorized boating and in-person gardening or home improvement sales at big box stores.

A Michigan State Police Trooper patrols Thursday, April 23, 2020, while a small caravan of protesters circle a neighborhood near the Michigan Governor's Mansion in Lansing.

"It's time to open Michigan now," said Hall, a 30-year-old conservative activist who was long based out of West Michigan. "People who want to stay on house arrest can stay on house arrest, and people who want to work can work.”

Whitmer's office said Thursday the governor's priority is "protecting health and safety."

"She supports Michiganders' right to free speech and the right to protest, but those participating should not put themselves or first responders at risk," said Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown. 

Hall defended his decision to protest at the governor's residence, noting it is a taxpayer-funded facility. He criticized Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey for asking protesters Thursday morning to avoid protesting at the governor's home. 

Shirkey is a "water boy" for the governor, Hall said. He argued that the Clarklake Republican should "shut his damn mouth" and "worry about opening Michigan back up.”

The Senate and House are scheduled to meet Friday to vote on creating an oversight committee on Whitmer's emergency and stay home orders. The Senate also plans to vote on legislation seeking to eliminate and scale back the governor's emergency powers.

Shirkey posted on Facebook Thursday morning that he supported those voicing their discontent and their right to do so but strongly exhorted "those organizing the protests to limit the venue to public spaces and around government buildings.

"Don’t protest at homes," Shirkey wrote. "Even the public Governor’s residence. It is indeed public property. But the adjacent properties and neighborhood are not."

A small group of protesters rally near the Michigan Governor's Mansion in Lansing on Thursday. They were protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order enacted to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Fellow organizer Nicholas Somberg brought his own weed whipper to the demonstration and used it on the governor's lawn to protest the "trampled rights" of landscapers who are banned from working during the stay-home order. 

"We thought it was time to take it to her doorstep,” Somberg said. "If she’s going to take more of our rights away, I think it was appropriate that our protests increased to match her seriousness.”

Michigan State Police First Lt. Darren Green said there were "some familiar faces" Thursday from last week's Operation Gridlock at the Capitol, where more than 4,000 protesters gathered to demonstrate for roughly eight hours. 

Green said protesters were "polite" and, with the exception of a few photo ops, protesters did "a really good job of doing social distancing."

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