Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Sunday forcefully condemned the racist symbols, including Confederate flags and swastikas, displayed by some attendees of an anti-lockdown protest at the state’s Capitol building last week.
Photos from the protest showed hundreds of participants crammed inside the building, many of whom were not wearing masks and flouted federal social distancing guidelines. The protest’s stated purpose was to demand Whitmer ease coronavirus restrictions in the state, though some protesters were seen holding up racist and anti-Semitic symbols during the event.
During an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” host Jake Tapper asked Whitmer if the stay-at-home order protests that have popped up across the country are in the same “vein” as the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, attended in part by neo-Nazis.
“Some of the outrageousness of what happened at our Capitol this week depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country,” Whitmer said. “The Confederate flags and nooses, the swastikas, the behavior that you’ve seen in all of the clips is not representative of who we are in Michigan.”
Whitmer is one of more than 40 governors who have implemented statewide stay-at-home orders amid the pandemic. As of Sunday, Michigan has the sixth-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths per capita, with 40 for every 100,000 people.
President Donald Trump last month released a three-phase set of guidelines for reopening parts of the country, which recommends state and local officials confirm a two-week downward trend of new cases as well as adequate hospital capacity and testing procedures.
Whitmer has said Michigan has not yet met the criteria for a sweeping reopening of the state’s economy. Trump nonetheless tweeted Friday that the governor should “give a little” and “make a deal” with the “very good people” who protested at the state’s Capitol a day earlier.
Whitmer on Sunday threw cold water on Trump’s suggestion and the protesters’ demands.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re in a global pandemic,” she said. “This isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of. ... This is a public health crisis that has taken the lives of over 70,000 Americans, has put 30 million people into unemployment. We’ve lost in the last 24 hours almost the same number of Americans that were killed on 9/11.”
“Whether you agree with me or not, I’m working to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan,” she added. “We’re going to listen to facts and science because we’ve got get this right.”
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