Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was seen protesting the death of George Floyd on Thursday in Highland Park with hundreds of other people in a way that appeared to break social distancing practices, despite voicing concerns in recent weeks about similar demonstrations spreading coronavirus.
Tiffany Brown, a spokesperson for the governor, denied that Whitmer had violated the executive order issues on Monday. The order, which moved Michigan into phase four of the MI Safe Start plan, says that people should remain six feet apart at public gatherings and that gatherings should consist of 100 people or fewer.
“We know that we are at a tipping point in this march toward justice. But this day can’t just be a day. It must be a step forward in this march toward justice.” – @GovWhitmer pic.twitter.com/jv0qE6d7S8
— Chris Meagher (@chrismeagher) June 4, 2020
Brown said the march did not violate the order because the order says that nothing it “shall be taken to abridge protections guaranteed by the state or federal constitution,” according to The Detroit News.
“That includes the right to peaceful protest,” she told the outlet.
Pictures distributed by the office show Whitmer walking with a Unity March in Detroit. Although she was wearing a mask, she was not spaced six feet apart from other attendees. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist was also in attendance.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
— Jason Overstreet (@JasonOverstreet) June 4, 2020
Whitmer was protesting the death of Floyd, who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after an arresting officer knelt on his neck. All four officers involved in the incident have been arrested and charged with murder.
“Gov. Whitmer attended today’s unity march to show her support for peaceful demonstrations taking place across America, the need for action, and to shine a light on the inequities Black Michiganders face every day,” Brown said in a Thursday statement, according to The Detroit News.
After a protest about the governor’s lockdown orders clogged up the streets of Lansing, Whitmer said the lack of social distancing was a problem.
“The sad irony here is that the protest was that they don’t like being in this stay-home order, and they may have just created a need to lengthen it,” Whitmer said at the time. “…Just by congregating, they’ve made that a real possibility.”
Whitmer’s participation in the protest was criticized by Michigan Rep. Lynn Afenoudlis, (R-3-Grand Rapids).
Social distancing is critical to stop the spread of COVID-19—unless you have a great photo op. And control. pic.twitter.com/uFyM6gBWaM
— Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (@LynnAfendoulis) June 4, 2020
“Social distancing is critical to stop the spread of COVID-19 — unless you have a great photo op. And control,” she wrote on Twitter.
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