Pro­testers gathered outside the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing on April 30 in response to Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer’s ongoing stay-at-home orders. Joel Meng | Col­legian

LANSING, Mich. — Several hundred pro­testors gathered outside the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing on April 30 to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders. As rain drizzled, shouts of “USA” and “Lock her up!” erupted from crowd members, many of whom carried firearms openly. Most were not wearing masks.

The protest started with an invo­cation, in which Bernadette Smith, a pastor at Holy Word Church in Grandville, Michigan, asked for God’s for­giveness on those who passed the ordi­nances. Then, the crowd sang the national anthem before saying the Pledge of Alle­giance. A slate of speakers, including doctors and activists, fol­lowed. They con­demned the recent orders from Whitmer and asked for the state to be re-opened. 

Pro­testors later entered the capitol and gathered outside the chamber chanting, “Let us in” and singing the national anthem. On Thursday, Whitmer signed three State of Emer­gency orders to extend the quar­antine until May 28 under several legal author­ities. The leg­is­lature voted not to extend the State of Emer­gency and to sue Whitmer, bringing on a legal con­frontation.

Orga­nizer Ryan Kelley said Whitmer has put the state into a downward eco­nomic spiral.

“More than one million have filed for unem­ployment,” Kelley said. “We come here to encourage the Michigan Senate to vote ‘no’ to extend the state of emer­gency.

Protest orga­nizer Ryan Kelley addressed the crowd gathered in Lansing on April 30. Joel Meng | Col­legian

Donna Kuhr, who owns a metal stamping sup­plier in St. Claire County, said the order did not include enough leeway for respon­sible cit­izens.

“We are essential workers and under­stand the impor­tance of safety pro­tocols,” Kuhr said. “If you don’t feel com­fortable running your business, don’t open. But there’s many of us who do feel com­fortable.”

Kuhr expressed sym­pathy for those at risk from COVID-19.

“If you have a com­pro­mised immune system and shouldn’t be in public, stay home,” Kuhr said. “But those of us who are healthy should be able to go to work.”

Jon Smith from Som­erset Township, and a can­didate for Hillsdale County Com­mis­sioner, con­nected the issue to per­sonal respon­si­bility.

“They’re respon­sible for their health and I’m respon­sible for mine,” Smith said. “Con­ser­v­a­tives want to be inde­pendent.”

Some pro­testors had already decided to defy the stay-at-home orders. Gabriel Lossing of Lapeer County, Michigan, said the order shut down his land­scaping business for three weeks.

“After that, I went back to work for those that would allow me to,” Lossing said. “I have many cus­tomers that would like to work but can’t, so that’s hurt my income.”

Peyton Pasternak (left) and Gabriel Lossing attended the April 30 Lansing protest against Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer’s stay-at-home orders. Joel Meng | Col­legian

On a more per­sonal level, Lossing explained that he also can’t accompany his pregnant wife on her hos­pital visits anymore.

Barbara Martin, of west Michigan, said she decided to join the protest when she heard about the father of a 12 year old getting brain surgery, whose father couldn’t be present because of vis­iting restric­tions in Michigan hos­pitals.

“I just want to see the science,” Martin said. “I don’t see how it’s safer to go into a liquor store or buy lottery tickets than to buy potting soil.”

Chi­ro­practor and ’03 Hillsdale College graduate Kyle Denholm said he’s seen an increase in patients suf­fering from anxiety and depression. The lockdown has also hurt his practice.

“I’m down about 50% of my normal patients,” Denholm said. “I’ve had to lay off four employees.”

Militia members and orga­nizers prepare for the protest rally. Joel Meng | Col­legian

Shelby, a tenth-grade student from Lowell, Michigan, said the lockdown is affecting the mental health of herself and her peers.

“She needs to let us free. I don’t do well with social dis­tancing. I’m a social person, so it kinda sucks,” Shelby said. “A couple of my friends went into treatment because of their depression because people were worried they were gonna hurt them­selves. Before the lockdown, they were out having fun.”

While Shelby said the grade pro­tection — a measure by schools which said primary and sec­ondary stu­dents’ grades couldn’t decrease from their pre-quar­antine state — means her grades can only go up. But other stu­dents weren’t so lucky.

Olivia, a freshman at Grand Rapids Com­munity College, said the lockdown hurt her aca­d­emics.

“I don’t have face-to-face with my teachers, so I can’t talk to them as easily,” Olivia said. “I’m a hands-on learner. It throws off my study habits.”

Olivia, who was at the protest with two of her sib­lings, said her family also felt eco­nomic hardship from the lockdown, because her father had seen a 20% pay cut. 

Jon Rutan from Hillsdale Township, who is running for Hillsdale County Sheriff, said the protest was about natural rights.

“Whitmer has to realize rights can’t be sus­pended. They are inalienable,” Rutan said. “That’s the crux of the issue.”