Whitmer, the target of an alleged kidnapping plot by Trump-supporting militia members, called out the president after he attacked her at the rally in Muskegon, working the crowd into a frenzy and triggering a chant of “Lock her up.”
“You gotta get your governor to open up your state,” Trump told the crowd. “And get your schools open, get your schools open. The schools have to be open, right?” added Trump, whose own son Baron attends a school that will not fully open through the fall.
When the crowd started chanting “Lock her up,” with absolutely no justification, Trump smiled and repeated the phrase. Then he chillingly added: “Lock ’em all up.”
Trump’s attack was “exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger. ... It needs to stop,” the Democratic governor tweeted immediately afterward.
Tori Saylor, the governor’s deputy digital director, noted that each time the president attacks Whitmer, threats against her skyrocket on social media.
Trump has continued to relentlessly attack Whitmer even after several members of a Michigan militia were arrested last week and charged with plotting to kidnap Whitmer in response to business restrictions and safety measures like requiring masks she instituted in the state to help stem the spread of COVID-19. They consider the restrictions tyrannical. “Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch,” one of the alleged conspirators told others, according to an FBI affidavit filed in court last week.
The men also discussed other violence, including grabbing several hostages, and overthrowing the state government, according to federal law enforcement authorities. Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was also discussed as a possible kidnapping target because of his COVID-19 safety measures, according to authorities.
In April, Trump urged his followers on Twitter: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” an action with violent connotations.
Whitmer’s safety standards follow guidelines recommended by the Trump administration’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After the militia arrests, Whitmer attacked Trump for encouraging such violence with his hate speech and support of violent groups.
“When our leaders ... encourage ... domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit,” she said.
After her criticism, Trump reiterated the militia members’ tyrant theme, insisting that Whitmer “wants to be a dictator.”
Critics says Trump’s support for the characterization of Whitmer as a criminal who should be “locked up” rather than the legitimately elected head of her state creates an atmosphere encouraging an open season on Democrats instating COVID-19 safety measures or on those who simply disagree with Trump.