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Michigan governor says "some of the worst racism" fueled protests over coronavirus response

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Michigan expands coronavirus testing but grapples with supply shortages 03:50

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday said some gun-toting protesters who demonstrated inside the state Capitol in opposition to some of her moves to battle the coronavirus "depicted some of the worst racism" and "awful parts" of U.S. history.

Whitmer made the assertion on CNN, before the release of the latest number of deaths in Michigan related to the coronavirus. Officials say the 29 new deaths, which increased the number to 4,049, was one of the lowest daily increases since the pandemic began in Michigan.

Confirmed cases in Michigan rose by 547, bringing the total to 43,754.

During the CNN appearance, Whitmer said the protests featured "Confederate Flags and nooses," as well as swastikas. Members of the Michigan Liberty Militia protested the state's stay-at-home orders this week, some with weapons and tactical gear and their faces partially covered.

"Some of the outrageousness of what happened at our capitol depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country," she said.

Some went to the Senate gallery, where a senator said armed men shouted at her. Democratic State Senator Dayna Polehanki tweeted a photo of the armed protesters. 

Whitmer said the protest wasn't representative of Michigan and that she's going to listen to facts and science to decide how to handle the pandemic.  

"Whether you agree with me or not, I'm working to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan," she said. "I am going to continue to do my job regardless of what tweets come out or what polls come out or what people think makes sense."

On Friday, President Trump urged Whitmer to "make a deal" with the protesters.

"The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry," Mr. Trump tweeted. "They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."

Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature has questioned Whitmer's authority to extend stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the governor used an executive order to extend a state of emergency declaration and has directed most businesses statewide to remain closed.

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