Michigan Sheriffs Rebel Against Dem. Gov., Begin Restoring Freedoms Taken During COVID Panic


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s controversial new, wide-ranging stay-at-home order is receiving some pushback from several sheriffs who have issues with its “vague framework of emergency laws.”

Whitmer, a Democrat, extended the order last week, which wasn’t particularly surprising. What did induce a few eyebrows to raise, however, were her further clampdowns on what Michigan residents could do and what they could buy at the “essential” businesses that remained open.

The new order, for instance, prohibits visiting family or friends unless the visit involves providing care; buying nonessential items even if they’re in a big-box store, including carpeting, furniture, gardening equipment and paint; public and private gatherings regardless of their size or relation to one another; and banning travel between two separate homes in Michigan.

“Michigan has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, and we’re still on the upswing. We must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread and protect our families,” Whitmer said in a news release, according to MLive. “Data shows that most Michiganders are doing their part by staying home and staying safe. That’s good, but we must keep it up.”

It wasn’t the extension that seemed to touch a nerve so much as the new restrictions, which appear arbitrary and not particularly conducive to public health. For instance, banning the sale of gardening equipment isn’t exactly an answer to some non-existent consumer crush in the potting soil area at Walmart but instead counterproductively removes a way for Michigan residents, particularly seniors, stay active.

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The new order has created plenty of resistance among Michiganders. In the state capital of Lansing, a crush of vehicles participated in a protest titled “Operation Gridlock” Wednesday, which created an unusual sight these days — bumper to bumper traffic — and had demonstrators staying in their cars and honking their horns in protest.

A more tangible protest against the new order comes from four sheriffs in the northern part of the state, according to Fox News.

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich, Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel, and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole — all Republicans — and Manistee County Sheriff Ken Falk — a Democrat — said in a joint statement released as the protests were happening that they wouldn’t strictly enforce the new regulations, setting up a showdown between county governments and Lansing.

“We write today to inform the public for our respective counties of our opposition to some of Governor Whitmer’s executive orders. While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority,” the letter read.

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The sheriffs, like colleagues in local law enforcement in other parts of the country, said they won’t strictly enforce state-level regulations. Instead, they “will deal with every case as an individual situation and apply common sense.”

“While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that [Gov. Whitmer] has imposed as overstepping her executive authority,” the sheriffs wrote. “She has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens.”

“Each of us took an oath to uphold and defend the Michigan Constitution, as well as the US Constitution, and to ensure that your God-given rights are not violated. We believe that we are the last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties.”

The letter went on to say that while virus-stopping protocols like social “social distancing, washing of hands, wearing of masks as well as other medically recommended measures” should still be followed, the focus needed to remain on “reopening our counties and getting people back to work.”

“Allowing those without paychecks back to work is imperative to the economic success and wellbeing of our community,” they wrote. “We can do this in stages, especially those that work outside.”

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“Together, as a community, we will overcome this pandemic, and as Americans, we will persevere and come out stronger than before,” the letter concluded.

“As sheriffs of your community we want you to know we have your back and will continue to serve the people who have entrusted us with your protection.”

The letter exposes one of the key divides in Michigan between rural counties, which aren’t as hard hit by the coronavirus, and cities like Detroit, which have become hotspots.

“Let’s start with the fact that some counties have no or very few COVID cases and yet are totally shut down,” Rosanne Ponkowski, president of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, the group that organized the Wednesday protests, said in a statement, according to Fox News

“When did a one-size solution solve everyone’s local issues? Governor Whitmer will put you out of business before allowing mere citizens to be responsible for their own behavior. That is madness.”

Unfortunately, many governors have eschewed dealing with things on a local level. Indeed, they’d prefer things to be dealt with on a national level instead — but, if Washington isn’t going to do it for them, they might as well do it themselves. (Of course, given that Washington is President Donald Trump, Democrats like Whitmer, a potential vice presidential pick, would be annoyed if he did it, too — but that’s a story for another day.)

There’s also extensive displeasure over what can be bought and sold under the governor’s order.

“People are basically being told what they can and can’t buy at stores,” Michigan Conservative Coalition member Matt Seely, said as he rallied in Lansing on Wednesday, according to the Washington Examiner. “Nothing makes sense. You can buy a bottle of liquor, but you can’t buy a gallon of paint.”

Eventually, rationality and more sober minds have to prevail if the country is going to get back to normal and reopen. These sheriffs are taking some of the first steps by defying Gov. Whitmer’s decision to extend her state’s reach into her constituents’ lives for no discernible reason. It’s time to start taking our freedoms back and put responsibility in the hands of our citizens.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture