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Protesters gather at night outside home of Michigan's health director

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A group of protesters held another nighttime gathering at the home of a Michigan official Tuesday night as they demonstrated outside the house of Robert Gordon, director of the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

On Dec. 5, protesters chanted and yelled outside the home of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in Detroit, drawing national attention and criticism. Ten days later, on Tuesday, a similar demonstration took place outside Gordon's home.

The health department director, who works for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, has been in charge of issuing restrictions in recent weeks to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. The epidemic orders have drawn praise from some public health experts but criticism from some businesses.

A group of protesters gathers outside the home of Robert Gordon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, on Tuesday night.

A 40-minute video posted on Facebook Tuesday night shows a group of more than a dozen people gathering in a parking lot before walking to Gordon's home, where they yelled into bullhorns and chanted. They also sang Christmas carols, and one voice can be heard on the video describing the event as a "house call."

"Open Michigan now," the protesters shouted together at one point.

"Robert Gordon is a tyrant," one person yelled.

During a media briefing Wednesday afternoon, Attorney General Dana Nessel called remarks made during the recent nighttime demonstrations in Michigan "very concerning." She said there was also a recent protest at the home of Heidi Washington, who leads the Michigan Department of Corrections.

In a statement, Gordon said he believes strongly in Americans' right to protest.

"Last night was something different: people came to my home in the dark of night, screaming through bullhorns, scaring my children and trying to intimidate me," Gordon said. "That is wrong, and, in case anyone is wondering, it’s a waste of time. We are going to keep following the proven, science-based steps to save lives and get Michigan through this pandemic.

"I know it’s challenging for everyone, especially for small business owners, but it is what is necessary for us to get to the other side with as many of our loved ones as we can."

Robert Gordon

As Michigan's health director, Gordon has signed a series of epidemic orders in recent weeks aimed at combating a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Those orders include requirements that people wear masks in crowded spaces and a suspension of indoor dining at restaurants and in-person instruction at high schools and colleges. The pause on indoor dining and in-person instruction is currently in place through Sunday.

As of Wednesday, Michigan had reported 442,715 COVID-19 cases and 10,935 deaths linked to the virus since the beginning of March.

On Saturday, demonstrators stood outside the home of Washington, director of the Department of Corrections, according to department spokesman Chris Gautz. They held up a banner, shouted and drove by honking in caravan, he said. They also placed fake tombstones on her lawn.

"After the police came and blocked her street, they drove around the surrounding streets laying on their horns, disturbing others in the neighborhood," Gautz said.

"Everyone has a right to protest, but I think going to someone’s home is a step too far," he added. "This is not the first time these protesters have come to her house. They have been there several times over the years and it really needs to stop."

cmauger@detroitnews.com