Lawmakers and residents have lashed out at Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to prolong a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, ignoring a vote in the legislature to let the draconian measure expire.
Whitmer signed three new executive orders on Thursday, decrees which she said were necessary in order to “continue fighting Covid-19 and save lives.”
The move came after both the state house and the state senate voted against extending the governor’s previous state of emergency order, which was set to expire at midnight.
The new executive orders give Whitmer broad and far-reaching powers, including the ability to impose curfews, as the state battles to contain coronavirus. The powers are set to expire on May 28, at which point the governor will evaluate “the continuing need” for the order. Whitmer has used executive orders as a legal means to enforce the state’s stay-at-home policy, which was recently extended until mid-May.
Rep. Lee Chatfield, speaker of the Michigan House, expressed his disappointment with Whitmer’s unilateral action, arguing that the legislature believed in “upholding the democratic process” – a notion which he alleged the governor had rejected.
Today, we offered our hand of partnership to the governor. No politics. We’re all in this together and we should all work together. We believe upholding the democratic process is best for MI people. She just said no. Very disappointing. #InThisTogether https://t.co/thExZnZSsg
— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) May 1, 2020
Another Michigan lawmaker, Rep. Michele Hoitenga, argued that “no person should have the level of unbridled power to dictate the movement of individuals,” adding that the state of emergency threatens rights which are “preeminent to us as Americans and as people.”
Whitmer’s new orders sparked fury among many residents. A popular Facebook group, Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine, was flooded by posts from outraged citizens.
“So it appears we have a straight up unilateral dictator on our hands in Michigan,” read one comment.
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Whitmer has maintained that the Republican-controlled legislature is not taking the health crisis seriously, stressing that the executive orders are necessary because the state is “not out of the woods yet.”
The controversial lockdown measures, as well as the executive orders, have polarized Michigan. Protesters, some carrying weapons, descended on the state capitol in Lansing on Thursday to express their opposition to the policies. Democrats slammed the rally as a dangerous stunt pulled by white nationalists.
Michigan has more than 40,000 cases of Covid-19, resulting in around 3,800 deaths – overwhelmingly in Detroit and the surrounding communities.
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