(CNN) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that the protests in the state’s capital city against state measures meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus make it more likely that the state will have to keep restrictions in place longer.
Appearing Monday on ABC’s “The View,” Whitmer, a Democrat, was asked about the pushback against her administration’s coronavirus restrictions. There have been multiple protests in the state’s capital city of Lansing in the past few weeks, including one late last month that saw protesters — some of them armed — entering the state Capitol, screaming at law enforcement officers and not adhering to social distancing guidelines or wearing masks.
While she respects people’s right to dissent, Whitmer said, the protesters are putting people at risk.
“The fact of the matter is, these protests — in a perverse way — make it likelier that we are going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” she said, going on to encourage anyone with a platform to call on people to “do the right thing.”
Another protest against the state’s stay-at-home restrictions is scheduled for Thursday in Lansing.
Whitmer was asked about safety, as many protesters have shown up with guns, swastika symbols and calls for violence. She said this behavior is “not appropriate in a global pandemic.”
“We have legislators who are showing up to work wearing bulletproof vests,” she said. “That is disenfranchising thousands of people in our state, if their legislator doesn’t feel safe enough to go to work and to do what their job is. No one should stand in our way of doing our jobs.”
Whitmer later appeared on CNN’s “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday evening, where she addressed the continued stay-at-home order.
“The one thing that we know with certainty is that the best tool we have right now is social distancing, and we all are eager to reengage our economies, and yet we have to be really smart about it.”
She also reiterated her respect for the right to dissent, but added that she would like to see the state Capitol become a gun-free zone to help employees’ peace of mind. She also said she hopes protesters will practice social distancing and wear masks during the next gathering at the Capitol, but if last time was any indication, she doesn’t think they will.
“It’s sad because this is a small, relatively small group of people in a a state of almost 10 million, where the vast majority are doing the right thing,” she said. “The right to dissent is something I have a great deal of respect for, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise other people’s public safety, and these protests thus far have not done it that way and I think it’s very concerning.”
Michigan’s state of emergency and stay-at-home orders were extended until May 28 despite pressure from Republican state lawmakers. The GOP leadership of the state Legislature filed a lawsuit against Whitmer last week, alleging that her executive order to extend the state of emergency was unlawful.
The protesters have been supported by President Donald Trump, who tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” in April and has continued to show support for protests of Democratic governors, including Whitmer, in recent weeks. Trump has frequently criticized Whitmer in recent months because of her criticisms of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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