Hundreds protest Gov. Whitmer's stay-at-home order in Grand Rapids

Posted at 11:02 PM, May 18, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Hundreds of people rallied Monday night in downtown Grand Rapids against Governor Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order.

The protest included guest appearances from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf.

It happened at Rosa Park Circle and is the first in West Michigan after a series of similar events happened in Lansing.

Organizers called it the "American Patriot Rally -- Sheriffs Speak Out." They say the goal is to encourage police to "uphold the constitution and to not enforce the illegal executive order."

Most protesters in attendance were not wearing masks or socially distancing themselves from others and carried signs, American flags, or guns. The ones FOX17 spoke to say they feel as if their rights are being violated during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Especially amendment one, the freedom to assemble, the freedom to worship how I want to worship," said Wanda Saxton, an attendee from Scotts, Mich. “All of them are being stomped on by this.”

“I think it’s important to reopen because the human cost of the shut down probably outweighs the benefits of keeping the economy shutdown," said Larry Arnhard from Grand Rapids. "I don’t see any evidence."

Shirkey and Leaf encouraged the crowd to stand up to Whitmer's actions.

“My encouragement to you is this," said Shirkey. "Be prepared to continue to do your teaching and your training, and be ready to do the testing of government when they think they’re this, when they’re really this.”

Grand Rapids Police say the event remained peaceful with no arrests, citations, or issues. GRPD and the Kent County Sheriff's Department were at the rally to ensure safety, and both departments say they were not participating.

There were a small number of counter-protesters. One of them was Karen Dunham, a Grand Rapids resident. She set up a memorial near Rosa Parks Circle to honor COVID-19 victims from Kent County.

“We really need to consider that this is for a health crisis that is ongoing," said Dunham. "These are friends, neighbors, people here in the community who have lost their lives to COVID19."

A spokesperson for Governor Whitmer sent the following statement after Monday's rally: "Governor Whitmer is the governor for all Michiganders and her number one priority remains protecting public health and safety. She supports Michiganders' right to free speech and the right to protest, but those participating should not put themselves or first responders at risk."