Hundreds of Michigan residents protested outside the state Capitol building in Lansing on Thursday, with some pushing inside while the Legislature was debating an extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters held signs, waved American flags and even carried firearms while some chanted, “Let us in!” and “This is the people’s house, you cannot lock us out” as they tried to get onto the House floor, but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms, according to WDIV-TV, an NBC affiliate in Detroit.
A state police spokesman told NBC News that it is legal in Michigan to carry firearms as long as it is done with lawful intent and the weapon is visible.
The protest, dubbed the “American Patriot Rally,” was organized by Michigan United for Liberty to call for the reopening of businesses.
State lawmakers are expected to vote on the 28-day extension of the state of emergency before it expires at midnight.
Whitmer, a Democrat who has faced fierce backlash for her strict stay-at-home mandate, extended that order earlier this month until May 15, but eased some restrictions on public activities as the state’s coronavirus cases stabilize. The state, however, still has more than 40,000 cases and is one of the hardest-hit states.
The emergency declaration allows Whitmer to use her emergency powers to use executive orders during a crisis; its extension is separate from the extension of the stay-at-home order.
As the protests moved indoors from the rainy steps of the Capitol, police took the temperatures of those entering the building using a forehead thermometer, according to WOOD-TV, an NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids.
Like the “Operation Gridlock” demonstration on April 15 over Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, many demonstrators appeared to be supporters of President Donald Trump, donning “Make American Great Again” campaign hats, and in one instance, putting on a dance routine by two girls wearing masks that appeared to be Trump and former President Barack Obama.
Republican lawmakers in Michigan, who control both chambers, have signaled that they would like to see the state safely reopen soon and have pushed back against Whitmer’s request for an extension of her emergency declaration.