April 30 (UPI) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the state of emergency in response to COVID-19 in the state until May 28 on Thursday, as armed protesters gathered at the capitol building to call for the state to reopen.
Whitmer signed three executive orders extending the state of emergency after the state’s Republican-controlled legislature voted against continuing the emergency and disaster declaration that was set to expire at midnight Friday.
The emergency order grants Whitmer the ability to issue executive orders and is separate from the state’s stay-at-home order, which is set still set on May 15.
“COVID-19 is an enemy that has taken the lives of more Michiganders than we lost during the Vietnam War,” said Whitmer. “While some members of the legislature may believe this crisis is over, common sense and all scientific data tells us we’re not out of the woods yet. By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk. I’m not going to let that happen.”
Michigan has recorded 41,379 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,789 deaths related to the virus as of Thursday.
Thursday’s legislative session at the capitol building in Lansing was met with hundreds of protesters, including some carrying firearms.
State Sen. Dayna Polehanki shared photos of armed protesters on Twitter.
“Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bulletproof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our sergeants-at-arms more than today,” she wrote.
Some protesters attempted to enter the House floor but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms.
The protest, dubbed the American Patriot Rally, was organized by Michigan United for Liberty in a call for the state to reopen businesses.
Whitmer has faced criticism for her strict stay-at-home order, including another protest earlier this month.
The order was extended until May 15 earlier this month, but Whitmer has eased restrictions, allowing outdoor activities such including golfing and boating.