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Hundreds roil Capitol over Whitmer orders

Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER and ED WHITE
Associated Press
LANSING — Hundreds of flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the coronavirus outbreak.
As snow fell, others got out of their vehicles and raised signs, one of which read, “Gov. Whitmer We Are Not Prisoners.” Another said, “Michigander Against Gretchens Abuses.”
The “Operation Gridlock” protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition.
“This arbitrary blanket spread of shutting down businesses, about putting all of these workers out of business, is just a disaster. It’s an economic disaster for Michigan,” coalition member Meshawn Maddock said. “And people are sick and tired of it.”
State police said they would stay on the sideline unless people could get hurt. The protest made big ripples: Traffic was barely moving for miles in some areas of Lansing.
Whitmer, a Democrat, extended a stay-home order through April 30 and has shut down schools and businesses deemed non-essential. The governor acknowledged the pain but said the restrictions were necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness that has killed more than 1,900 Michigan residents and overwhelmed hospitals in the Detroit area.
“Instead of looking at essential and non-essential, let’s start looking at what’s safe and unsafe and start getting people back to work,” Maddock said.
Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who has urged Whitmer to amend her order, waved an American flag from a window at his Capitol office.
Four sheriffs in the northwestern Lower Peninsula called Whitmer’s orders a “vague framework of emergency laws” that are frustrating citizens. Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said people don’t understand why they can’t take a child fishing in a motorboat but they can use a kayak.
“We’re trying to keep the peace with people. … The economy is coming apart in northern Michigan. People are upset,” Borkovich told The Associated Press. “People are frantic to get back to work. They have been very edgy.”

White reported from Detroit.