Dramatic photos and videos show angry Michiganders creating a traffic jam around the state Capitol to protest their governor's strict stay-at-home order

Associated PressMichigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing on Monday.
  • Hundreds of Michigan residents descended on the state Capitol in their cars and trucks on Wednesday for a vehicle demonstration, called #OperationGridlock, to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s strict stay-at-home order.
  • The order, one of the nation’s most stringent, included closing parts of big-box stores that sell gardening and home-improvement goods and barring Michigan residents from travelling elsewhere in the state.
  • “To say that I am furious about this would be an understatement,” Paul LaFrance, who told Insider he planned to attend Wednesday’s protest, said earlier this week. “This is a complete overreach by the government.”
  • Here are the dramatic photos and videos of Michiganders driving through rain and snow to express their displeasure outside the state Capitol.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Hundreds of Michigan residents descended on the state Capitol in Lansing in their cars and trucks on Wednesday for a vehicle demonstration, called #OperationGridlock, to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s strict stay-at-home order.

Whitmer, a Democrat who was elected in 2018, issued a new stay-at-home order last Thursday to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters described the order as draconian and a violation of their individual liberties.

The order, one of the nation’s most stringent, included closing parts of big-box stores that sell gardening and home-improvement goods, limiting the use of motorboats, closing public golf courses, and curbing interstate travel, barring residents from fleeing the most heavily afflicted parts of the state to elsewhere in Michigan.

The order has affected small businesses too. Workers in the lawn-care and construction industries have said it hampers their ability to make ends meet. Nationwide, in the past three weeks, shutdowns related to the outbreak have put an estimated 17 million Americans out of work.

The Facebook event for the protest, organised by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund, instructed people to stay in their cars and “honk horns, paint cars or bring signs” to express their displeasure. Still, many people got out of their cars and protested the order on foot, violating social-distancing guidelines.

Protesters drove to Lansing through rain and snow to make their voices heard

Michigan has been hit hard by the coronavirus

Some Michigan residents have become angry and frustrated at the burdensome restrictions on travel and what businesses are considered essential.

But Whitmer and medical professionals have said that such measures are essential to curb the fast spread of the coronavirus. As she pointed out on Friday, the coronavirus killed nearly 1,300 people in Michigan in March alone. That’s higher than the death toll from car crashes in Michigan for the entire year.

The state reported 1,366 new COVID-19 cases and 166 new deaths on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 27,000 cases and more than 1,700 deaths, primarily concentrated in the Detroit metro area.

But some Michiganders said the governor’s order went too far and is counterproductive in limiting the virus’ spread.

“To say that I am furious about this would be an understatement,” Paul LaFrance, who told Insider he planned to attend Wednesday’s protest, said earlier this week. “This is a complete overreach by the government.”

The governor’s office and public-health experts have insisted that stay-at-home orders are necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus to more rural parts of the state that don’t have the hospital and public-health infrastructure to handle a surge of cases.

“Governor Whitmer believes that everyone has a right to protest and speak up,” Chelsea Lewis, Whitmer’s deputy press secretary, said of the Wednesday protest in a statement to Insider on Monday.

“She knows that a lot of people are angry and frustrated, and will always defend everyone’s rights to free speech – the Governor asks those who choose to protest these orders to do so in a manner that doesn’t put their health or the health of our first responders at risk.”

Whitmer’s office also noted that the Michigan Freedom Fund has ties to the ultrawealthy conservative donors Dick and Betsy DeVos, the latter of whom is President Donald Trump’s secretary of education.

“It’s highly inappropriate for a group that’s primarily funded by a member of the president’s cabinet to be launching a partisan political attack during the worst public health crisis in a century,” Lewis said. “We should all be on the same team fighting the same enemy, and that’s COVID-19.”

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