With little social distancing, Whitmer marches with protesters

Posted 113 days ago


Highland Park — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who's voiced concerns about other demonstrations potentially spreading COVID-19 in recent weeks, participated Thursday in a civil rights march in Highland Park with hundreds of people who did not follow social distancing rules.

Whitmer drew criticism after she stood shoulder to shoulder with some march participants, who included Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. From the front line to last, the marchers started at Highland Park city hall and were a rolling quarter-mile of humanity traveling southbound on Woodward, with the skyline of downtown Detroit in the distance ahead, as a caravan of Detroit and Highland Park police vehicles escorted them while a helicopter buzzed overhead.

"Social distancing is critical to stop the spread of COVID-19 — unless you have a great photo op," state Rep. Lynn Afenoudlis, R-Grand Rapids Township, tweeted.

Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown denied the governor had violated her own executive order issued Monday that says people should remain six feet apart if participating in public gatherings.

"The governor took precautions for engaging in an outdoor activity, including wearing a mask even though it is not required outdoors under the order," Brown said.

Contrary to the administration's own guidance posted online, Brown said the unity march didn't violate her latest order because it states, "Nothing in this order shall be taken to abridge protections guaranteed by the state or federal constitution."

"That includes the right to peaceful protest," she said.

However, a page of frequently asked questions about the order on the governor's website specifically says, "Persons may engage in expressive activities protected by the First Amendment within the State of Michigan but must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the person’s household."

While many of the hundreds of participants on Thursday wore masks, including the governor, the six-feet distancing policy wasn't followed.

At the march that went through Highland Park and Detroit, Whitmer urged participants not to lose heart in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of George Floyd, and to work for change.

“Elections matter," Whitmer said during the march. "We cannot be defeated. We must move forward together. When we do that, we cannot be defeated.”

Floyd's death, which occurred after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on the man's neck for more than eight minutes, has sparked protests across the country, including the past seven days in Detroit.

Joining Whitmer was Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, who told The Detroit News that police brutality is “one of the most important issues of our generation.”

“We're talking about the fact that we need to reframe and restructure the relationship between law enforcement and the community, particularly between law enforcement in the black community. What we're saying is that not only do black lives matter but black futures matter and black potential matters,” Gi... (Read more)

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