Remember the April 15th "Operation Gridlock?" in Lansing Michigan? In my piece on April 21st I said we needed to start tracking these protesters to show that they will spread the virus to other communities. Well, someone did.
The people at the Committee to Protect Medicare released data which shows the protesters dispersing to smaller communities across Michigan in the following days. The map above shows that cellphones that were in Lansing on April 15 scattered across the state. (Link)
Rob Davidson, executive director of The Committee to Protect Medicare said on Lawrence O'Donnell on April 30th that they saw a rise of 50-200% in COVID19 cases at the places those cell phones ended up.
Davidson predicts that we will see more of this following the April 30th protests. "If we keep doing the same thing over and over we're never going to get out of this."
Protesters without masks, PPE may have spread COVID-19 to North, West Michigan
The data is a “bright red flag” that shows the irresponsible actions of a few hundred people could put medically under-equipped communities at risk of experiencing higher infection rates, according to Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency physician in West Michigan who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2018.
“Every public health expert and medical professional has been warning America that people who don’t maintain physical distance could be dispersing a highly contagious, lethal virus into their communities and endangering their neighbors and their loved ones,” Davidson said. “These reckless actions threaten to set back all our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the rate of infections.” (May 4th, Michigan Advance)
Michigan state law enforcement needs to change how they handle protesters.
At the April 30th protest the Michigan state police decided not to enforce the executive order.
This is a not a hoax pandemic. 3,789 people in Michigan have died because of it, and that's not going to stop if protesters are allowed to violate the lawful emergency orders on social distancing. But at the April 30th event no one was cited. They could have been cited for breaking MCL 10.33 & MCL 30.405(3), a misdemeanor.
Here is Michigan State Police First Lt. Darren Green, the state security operation commander for the Capitol, telling the unmasked protesters standing closer than 6 feet apart the police will not be enforcing the social distancing orders. Clip from MLive video at 4:08
Also when cops didn't enforce the law on social distancing at anti-lockdown protesters, COVID-19 spread.
Call your reps. Demand police enforce physical distancing laws at protests. https://t.co/YtYxkwDuZb
@DrRobDavidson https://t.co/ssKdzeqwS5 pic.twitter.com/LELw4ODSWG
— Spocko (@spockosbrain) May 8, 2020
In this interview Michigan State Police First Lt. Darren Green gave several reasons for using "extreme discretion" for social distancing enforcement during stay-at-home protest. (link) Those reasons might have made sense at the time, but we now know how easily this deadly virus spreads.
How do we get a change in public health policing?
Elected officials should listen to the doctors who are looking at the evidence and making decisions to limit the spread. Michigan state government needs to tell police to start enforcing Executive Order 2020-11 re: Temporary prohibition on large assemblages and events (PDF Link) The doctors can educate the police why they need to start citing and arresting people who willfully and intentionally break public health orders.
When I last wrote about this people worried about how enforcement can be applied unjustly against POC. They were also concerned about the use of widespread surveillance techniques by government. All valid concerns. If we are going to ask for an increase in policing during the pandemic we should also demand independent oversight to address injustices and ensure that privacy requirements are built into the system.
Who does the public need to call, email or tweet to support health department orders?
I asked my friends who live in Michigan for ideas on who specifically to contact and what to say. They suggested their state representatives. My friend Vicki shared with me this delightful letter she wrote to Senator Mike Shirkey and Representative Lee Chatfield, both Republicans:
I don't know if either of you are scientists or understand science--it appears that you don't, after you allowed the protesters with their penis extensions (AKA guns and assault rifles) into the Capitol yesterday--but you both need to be told, apparently, that this virus doesn't have a political affiliation. It doesn't care if you are a Democrat, a Republican, or a Pastafarian. It's an equal opportunity virus, and it will seek you out if you are in crowded spaces with no protection. A sizable majority of constituents in the State of Michigan (I can cite sources, if need be) agree with the Governor, that our safety is more important than politics or opening the economy--even if it is painful for some right now. We all get it, it's stressful for everyone--we are all in this TOGETHER (or at least we should be).
..these fools (yes, they are fools) put all of our lives in danger with their behavior and their demands. Thankfully, we have a Governor who follows science.
..Follow the science. If you don't understand it, research it. But follow the science. Opening this state up too soon because some troglodytes are screaming about LIBERTY is a foolish, foolish move.
Sadly some Michigan Republicans are listening to "Dr. Trump" by playing political games and filing lawsuits.
Why aren't they doing what Robert Gordon, Director of State Of Michigan, Department Of Health And Human Services says in Emergency Order Pursuant to MCL 333.2253 Regarding Executive Orders 2020-11, 2020-20, and 2020-21? That order is based on the "advice of scientific and medical experts employed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. That is the document law enforcement should be following (read it here)
What needs to happen next?
- Call your reps! Demand police change their policies to enforce physical distancing laws at protests.
- The Governor needs the director of DHHS to talk to elected officials and explain how and why policing needs to change.
- The Governor needs to direct the Attorney General, Dana Nessel to tell the director of the Michigan State Police, Col. Joseph Gasper, that he needs to direct his officers to start citing and arresting protesters violating the law.
- The media needs to be informed how protests will be handled going forward. (They can use California as a model since they just arrested 32 anti-lock down protesters. )
- Commanders in the field, like MSP Lt. Darren Green, should explain the new rules at any protests.
- Public Information Officers like Lt. Brian Oleksyk, need to tell local reporters like Kyle Kaminski at City Pulse that "extreme discretion" on protesters is over
We focus on the protesters yelling in these photos. I think we should focus on the police being yelled at. They are being put at risk by protesters who aren't masked and could be carrying a deadly virus. Police have families too.
Anyone who says they "support our first responders" or tweets "#BlueLivesMatter" should be demanding reckless protesters stop spreading a highly contagious, lethal virus. That means PPE for first responders and enforcement of policies designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In Michigan people have heard the story of 5-year old Skylar Herbert. Her dad is a firefighter, her mom is a police officer. At some point they were exposed to COVID-19, which infected Skylar. On April 5th Skylar became the youngest person to have died of the virus in Michigan--so far.
Make a call. Save lives.