Hundreds protest coronavirus stay-at-home order at Michigan capitol

Lawmakers from both parties criticized some protesters for intimidating tactics

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LANSING, Mich. — A couple hundred people angry about Michigan's coronavirus stay-at-home order were protesting in the rain outside the state Capitol on Thursday.

The demonstration was smaller than previous rallies, at least early on. It was led by Michigan United for Liberty, a conservative activist group that has sued Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and organized or participated in several protests since early April.

MICHIGAN EXTENDS CORONAVIRUS STAY-AT-HOME ORDER, OPENS MANUFACTURING STATEWIDE

Although state police described the last demonstration as peaceful overall, lawmakers from both parties criticized some protesters for intimidating and threatening tactics. Some  openly carried assault rifles into the Capitol, including the state Senate gallery, sparking calls by Democrats to ban guns from the building.

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The Republican-led Legislature was not in session Thursday — the Senate had planned to be but changed course — and the Capitol was closed to the public.

"We just encourage and ask everybody to be as peaceful as they can," said Erica Pettinaro, a co-founder of Michigan United for Liberty. She said some demonstrators were a "little overly passionate" and came off a "little strong" two weeks ago but were legally exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In this photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, May 7, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

The state police director and Michigan's attorney general said laws would be enforced at the rally, including if protesters "brandish" their guns or ignore police directives. Under the governor's stay-at-home order, people don't have to wear masks outside. But they are required to stay 6 feet (nearly 2 meters) from those who don't live in their household. Many flouted the distancing requirement at the previous rallies and didn't wear face coverings inside while yelling at security guards.

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"I don't particularly want to see people congregating, period. We know that contributes to spread," Whitmer said Wednesday. "But if people are going to come down and demonstrate, do it in a responsible way. That's what we ask."

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