Folks, "Operation Gridlock" is in full effect, and by all accounts it looks dumb as hell.
Protesters descended upon Lansing on Wednesday, arguing that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order is excessive. The protesters say Whitmer's expanded executive order, which has shut much of the economy down through April in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, goes too far, closing the home improvement and gardening centers at grocery stores and barring people from traveling to their cabins up north.
"People always say: 'Conservatives never protest because they are too busy working,'" a Facebook page for the protest reads. "Well, guess what. You’re not working— so it’s time to PROTEST."
Lowercase-"L" libertarian Rep. Justin Amash weighed in, saying Whitmer should reassess the scope of her order. But the protest was also fueled by some dubious conservative actors, including Andrew Malcolm, a former New York Times journalist who later worked for George W. Bush's campaign. Malcolm posted a photo of Whitmer on Twitter, falsely claiming it showed her breaking her administration's own rule prohibiting large gatherings while signing a measure that fines citizens $1,000 for not adhering to social distancing measures.
The photo was from 2019.
Nevertheless, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz retweeted it. Talk about #FakeNews.
Here’s the tweet Sen. Cruz later deleted that misled the public about Michigan Gov. Whitmer. It was retweeted almost 2,800 times, pushing misinformation to thousands. The veteran journalist who posted it still isn’t deleting his post or apologizing for or correcting it. pic.twitter.com/QTFODeNXXQ— Niraj Warikoo (@nwarikoo) April 13, 2020
And Meghan McCain, The View cohost who's not so much a "journalist" as she is "the daughter of a famous politician," falsely claimed that the sale of car seats for children was also banned by Whitmer — a claim to which Whitmer responded to directly. (McCain did not handle it well, apparently able to dish it but not take it.)
On Monday, Whitmer tried to calm people, assuring them that this would all be over soon, as long as we stick to the stay-at-home order.
"I want you to have your freedom. I want to have mine, too," she said during an address. "But those days where we can resume some normalcy, they are on the horizon if we keep doing what we need to do to get past this moment."
She also alleged that GOP megadonor Betsy DeVos was behind the protest — a claim that the DeVos-funded group Michigan Freedom Fund denied, saying they paid to advertise the rally, not organize it.
Nevertheless, the Michigan Freedom Fund was front and center at the protest, capturing images and posting them on Twitter. (Of course, it being Michigan, it snowed — on a day that people were protesting temporarily not being able to garden.)
The idea behind Operation Gridlock was that it would be a "drive-through" protest (which is an extremely American idea if you think about it), and the Michigan Freedom Fund urged people not to leave their cars so as to adhere to social distancing measures.
Hilariously, many protesters refused to listen even to the Michigan Freedom Fund.
A large group got out of their cars anyway, and held pro-Trump and "Don't Tread on Me" signs on the stairs of the Capitol building. Look at how close they're standing, and the lack of masks.
Among the protesters here today are several open carry advocates. pic.twitter.com/RhxTf8JqLk— Beth LeBlanc (@DNBethLeBlanc) April 15, 2020
The scene in front of the Capitol about 20 minutes ago: pic.twitter.com/ySQZpjnU4b— Craig Mauger (@CraigDMauger) April 15, 2020
Protesters not remaining six feet apart: pic.twitter.com/aWpTZzclEY— Craig Mauger (@CraigDMauger) April 15, 2020
When asked, some protesters said they didn't fear catching and spreading COVID-19, because "the curve has turned." In fact, Michigan is one of the epicenters for the virus in the U.S., and only New York and New Jersey have more deaths. Officials expect more deaths in Michigan the coming weeks.
I've asked just about every protester I've spoken with today if they are worried about getting the virus during the event.— Craig Mauger (@CraigDMauger) April 15, 2020
"I think that the curve has turned and I am just not afraid," one argued: https://t.co/lNKKmFdwdh
The gridlock went right in front of a hospital, apparently blocking an ambulance. Hope it wasn't going to treat a COVID-19 patient.
There is an ambulance that can't get through on Grand. pic.twitter.com/9l99NIJQfg— Zach Gorchow (@ZachGorchow) April 15, 2020
Attorney General Dana Nessel was not amused.
Using your right to peaceably protest in such a manner as to spread a virus which may endanger your life, the lives of your friends, family and neighbors, and the lives of countless food service, law enforcement and healthcare workers does not make you a patriot. https://t.co/umSTYecYhb— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) April 15, 2020