By Laura Barros
Washington, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- Thousands of Michigan residents, most of them evidently supporters of President Donald Trump, on Wednesday staged a protest driving their vehicles into the state capital of Lansing to demand their right to “liberty,” calling for an end to the stay-home order implemented by state Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, which they called “excessive.”
A huge caravan of thousands of vehicles sounding their horns and festooned with US flags and Trump election banners and other signs drove through the streets of Lansing as part of the “Operation Gridlock” protest organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and convened via the social networks.
The private and commercial vehicles converged on the area around the state capitol building, with the drivers coming from the most conservative parts of the state to express their discontent with the self-isolation measures implemented by Whitmer and designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Some of the signs read “Liberty once lost is lost forever,” “Recall Whitmer” and “Reopen Michigan now,” and one group of protesters who stationed themselves at the capitol entrance displayed another sign reading “Security without liberty is called prison.”
Very few of the protesters – who had on heavy coats, caps and gloves against the cold weather – were wearing the facemasks recommended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and many were not keeping the recommended six-foot distance between each other, although drivers who remained in their cars encouraging and shouting to one another were said by local police to be doing a pretty good job of maintaining social distancing.
The demonstration, which began about midday, had been previously scheduled and many vehicles, mainly pickup trucks and SUVs, began gathering early in the day in the area.
The Michigan Conservative Coalition on its Facebook page said that Gov. Whitmer and her allies are “infecting ALL of us with their radical, progressive agenda.”
The group’s Facebook message went on to say: “People always say: “Conservatives never protest because they are too busy working.” Well, guess what. You’re not working – so it’s time to PROTEST.”
“We can get this rally done and stay within the social distancing guidelines,” said Michigan Conservative Coalition co-founder Marian Sheridan in a statement, adding, “Citizens are frankly tired of being treated like babies. As adults, we now know what needs to be done to stay safe.”
Among the measures that have irritated some Michigan residents is the ban on traveling to vacation homes and using motorized boats and the closure of areas considered to be non-essential in large stores, like the furniture, garden and paint departments.
In addition, Michigan authorities have instructed all stores to limit the number of people allowed inside and any establishment violating the requirements could face fines or misdemeanor charges.
Whitmer had instructed Michigan residents on March 23 to stay at home and maintain social distancing, and those instructions had been scheduled to remain in effect until last Thursday, although she decided to extend them to April 30 and to tighten them.
In remarks to local media, Whitmer said Wednesday that her state is in third place among US states in terms of confirmed Covid-19 cases despite the fact that it is nowhere near the third largest state in population.
That fact indicates that the state is experiencing a unique crisis that demands a unique solution, she asserted.
According to Michigan government figures, 28,059 confirmed coronavirus cases have been detected in the state and 1,921 people have died.
The Johns Hopkins University said Wednesday that 613,187 confirmed coronavirus cases have been detected in the US as a whole, and 27,085 people have died, putting the country in first place worldwide in both of those grim categories.