Trump calls armed protesters in Michigan 'very good people,' says Gov. Whitmer should 'make a deal'

May 1, 2020 at 10:00 am
On Thursday, armed protesters stormed the State Capitol in opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive orders, which have kept much of Michigan's economy closed since March to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

It's easy to understand why many Michiganders would be frustrated with the governor. The economic shutdown has put more than 1.3 million workers out of a job, or a quarter of the state's workforce. Some still haven't gotten any unemployment money yet, more than six weeks into the crisis.

But many of the protesters went off-script. Many stood close together and didn't wear face masks, flouting the social distancing guidelines experts recommend to stop the virus from spreading. There were Confederate flags, signs calling Whitmer a bitch, and signs insinuating that the governor should be lynched. Of course, the protesters were largely white — because can anyone imagine Black or brown people walking into a government building with guns without getting shot? (In Michigan, violating the stay-at-home order is punishable by fines of up to $1,000. No word on if police issued any tickets. It is legal to bring guns into the Capitol.)

On Friday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter for some mobster LARPing, and said Whitmer should "give a little, and put out the fire."

"These are very good people, but they are angry," Trump said. "They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."

The comment echoes Trump's previous statement about the white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, in which he said there were "very fine people on both sides." Before Thursday's protest, Trump called on his followers to "LIBERATE MICHIGAN" in a tweet.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Michigan Attorney General denounced Trump's "very good people" statement.

On Thursday, Whitmer extended Michigan’s state-of-emergency declaration to May 28, without seeking Congressional approval. Republican lawmakers have threatened to file a lawsuit in retaliation.

The coronavirus has hit Michigan particularly hard, infecting more than 41,000 residents and killing more than 3,700, making it one of the top hotspots for the virus in the U.S. The Trump administration had long ignored and downplayed the threat of the crisis.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.