Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out President Donald Trump's administration Friday for not knowing what's happening in Michigan and the Legislature for refusing to work with her to address gun violence.
Her comments came during a livestream conference with gun control advocacy groups Everytown for Gun Safety Action and Moms Demand Action. It was the final episode of their virtual series where they spoke to women leaders, including former presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, about gun violence.
After Trump announced last week he was sending federal agents to Detroit amid police brutality protests, Whitmer said his administration “doesn’t know anything about the city of Detroit is not paying attention to what is really happening here."
Trump’s action to send agents to cities around the country that have had protests following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has come under criticism recently. Protesters in Portland, Oregon, say agents arrested people without probable cause and took them away in unmarked vehicles.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit this week dismissed as “irresponsible rhetoric” any suggestion that the government wants to quash dissent in Michigan. He said federal agents being sent to Detroit by the Trump administration will help local authorities fight violent crime and won’t interfere with protests against racism or excessive force by police.
Whitmer said she doesn’t believe U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr when he told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he was not aware protesters at the state Capitol Building called for Whitmer to be lynched among other threats during anti-lockdown protests.
“They've acknowledged they don’t know what’s going on here on the ground and that’s why it’s important to point out that Detroiters have been peacefully protesting policing and policies that have led to disparities and impacts on communities of color and the African American community," she said.
The lockdown protesters came heavily armed to several protests outside the Capitol, but on one occasion in April, they entered the building during legislative session yelling obscenities at law enforcement outside the legislative chambers.
Whitmer said a barrier to passing legislation on gun control is having to work with the Legislature. She added that the Capitol Commission, responsible for managing the Capitol and has the authority to ban firearms from the grounds, is appointed by the Legislature and shares their interest in not wanting any sort of gun violence reform.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey's office was not immediately available for comment.
“As a governor in a state that still has gerrymandered legislative districts, you don’t have a Legislature that’s very friendly when it comes to working on this, I’ll just be very blunt about that,” Whitmer said. “From the White House to the statehouse, every single election year we’ve got an opportunity to address these issues.”
Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.