‘Freedom is Essential’: The Story of Operation Gridlock
Updated: Oct 14
Author: Mikka Lawson
High Noon. April 15th, 2020. Lansing, MI. Organizers called it “gridlock” to give a visual demonstration of what they believe Governor Gretchen Whitmer is doing to Michigan.
Ruling motorboats illegal during this crisis while allowing sailboats, kayaks, and canoes. Allowing recreational marijuana and elective abortion shops to remain open, while forcing churches and seasonal small businesses like landscapers and greenhouses to stop normal operations. All this through executive orders.
These and other grievances spurred Michiganders from as far away as the Upper Peninsula to congregate to the Capitol in their cars. I had to see this for myself.
I made it within five blocks of the Capitol by 11:45 AM, but the traffic made it impossible to proceed further by car. Now and then, various groups of vehicles would begin honking their horns, festively waving American flags and signs, and smiling at nearby cars. “Let my people mow," declared one sign. “Freedom is Essential," said another.
At noon, every car, truck, and vehicle blasted their horns. Although the organizers strongly emphasized that participants should remain in their cars at all times, out of the thousands of people gathered, there were perhaps a hundred who ignored this guidance.
Meshawn Maddock, an event organizer with the Michigan Conservative Coalition, discussed a low point in the protests. She told The Morning Watch, “the saddest part of the protest is the few people who insisted on standing on the Capitol steps, because of course those are the photos that the media focuses on, not the tens of thousands of families hard-working Michigan people that just want to get back to work.”
The few who were not in vehicles stood on the Capitol steps or meandered around the Capitol lawn, many still giving each other a wide girth.
A large number of attendees practiced social distancing and had hand sanitizer and masks. A few timidly rolled down their window or hopped out of their car to snap a photo before quickly returning.
Although there were a few token distasteful signs, it was a calm and polite protest overall. Despite the large quantity of protesting cars, trucks, trailers, and various other vehicles, the use of my turning signal was enough to part the sea of honking machines.
At the hospital down the road, cars waited near the stop lines, allowing other vehicles healthcare access. Hospital security and public safety cars were on hand to ensure there were no difficulties. Despite photos on social media, Sparrow and Lansing Fire department indicated the protest did not cause 'major issues with patient care.'
Since the protest, other protests in Michigan have been planned, but “I believe that nothing can ever duplicate what just happened last Wednesday...we made a point loud and clear,” said Maddock.
Governor Whitmer labeled the protest a “political rally," citing “brandishing [of] their weapons, having posters of being anti-choice,” she told Real Clear Politics. Additionally, she said it endangered lives and would increase coronavirus cases.
Since April 15, other protests in other states have sprung. Pennsylvania, Maryland, Colorado, Michigan, and Minnesota have all had large protests gaining national coverage. Furthermore, on April 17, President Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” He did similarly with Virginia and Minnesota.
Several state governors, including Governor Whitmer, have shown their concern with protests and have indicated possible extensions to ‘stay-at-home’ orders.
The Federal Government has announced plans to begin reopening on May 1, with other states like Florida and Texas reopening this week and next. New York and California have indicated they will not begin reopening so soon.
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