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Protests break out in Michigan over state's stay-at-home order

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Detroit battles growing coronavirus outbreak 03:51

Michigan residents who oppose Governor Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order blocked traffic Wednesday by descending on the state's Capitol in Lansing. Protesters in cars honked their horns and decorated their vehicles with flags in support of President Trump, and signs reading "let us work." 

Last week Whitmer, a Democrat, extended the state's "stay home, stay safe" order through April 30. As of Wednesday, the state had 28,059 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,921 people had died from the coronavirus, according to the state's health department. 

In response to the extended order, a Facebook event titled "Operation Gridlock" called for people to drive around the Capitol building.

"Come prepared for a traffic jam in Lansing! We WANT gridlock. Do not park and walk - stay in your vehicles!" reads the Facebook event page, created by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and Freedom Fund.  

"This arbitrary blanket spread of shutting down businesses, about putting all of these workers out of business, is just a disaster. It's an economic disaster for Michigan," coalition member Meshawn Maddock said, The Associated Press reported. "And people are sick and tired of it." 

Virus Outbreak Michigan
Jonah Verway walks between gridlocked vehicles during a protest in Lansing, Michigan, Wednesday, April 15, 2020.  Paul Sancya/AP

The AP reports that the protest had a big impact, with traffic hardly moving in some areas of Lansing. 

Whitmer said earlier this week, in response to the planned protest, that she understands people's frustration, but asked protesters to remain safe.   

"It's OK to be angry, and ... if it makes you better to direct it at me that's OK, too. I've got thick skin. And I'm always going to defend your right to free speech," she said. 

"I just ask that those who are protesting these orders do so in a safe manner so that you don't get sick and you don't subject our first responders to risk, either. Or prey on other people's anxieties."

As snow fell, others got out of their vehicles and raised signs, one of which read, "Gov. Whitmer We Are Not Prisoners." Another said, "Michigander Against Gretchens Abuses." 

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