By Kellie Book
City streets have been eerily empty for the past couple of weeks, but that was not the case today in East Lansing.
Instead, the streets were intentionally clogged by thousands of vehicles sporting various flags and signs in protest of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home orders.
The protest, nicknamed “Operation Gridlock,” was originally planned by the Michigan Conservative Coalition (MCC).
The details of the MCC’s Facebook event said “do not park and walk- stay in your vehicles!”
Only some of the approximately 4,900 people who participated in the protest heeded those instructions. People were roaming the streets and congregating in front of the state capital building, without hardly a face mask in sight. It is safe to say that few participants followed social distancing procedures the way the MCC had urged them to.
“I think their points are valid, lots of people are out of jobs right now, but the fact that they were in mass groups is extremely dangerous to themselves and the people they were around,” said 21-year-old East Lansing resident and Michigan State University student, Jessica Abraham.
Beginning at noon the streets were filled with a cacophony of honking horns and a forest of signs and American, Confederate, and Trump campaign flags. The protest went far past the planned end time of 2 p.m. and was still going strong at 5 p.m. while local news outlets were broadcasting live feeds from their reporters on the ground.
Although this protest called attention to the financial plight and general hardship endured by people and businesses in Michigan, it also had some negative consequences.
“The highway was bad and Grand River was bad, which I was concerned about because those are the two main ways to get anywhere out of the city,” Abraham said. “Say I were trying to go home, back to Grand Rapids, or to the hospital. I literally wouldn’t be able to because everything was blocked off… there was a gridlock in front of Sparrow (Hospital), it was such a large area that people were parking their cars in.”
Abraham wasn’t the only one to notice the impossibility of reaching the local hospital.
“I’m disappointed, we saw several posts about people blocking the ability for an ambulance to get into Sparrow Hospital,” Whitmer said in a press conference.
The protest had other effects on that hospital as well, according to 21-year-old MSU student Claire Dion.
“My friend is a nurse at Sparrow and she said that everyone honking was disturbing patients there who are trying to heal and get better,” said Dion. “It was very disruptive.”
Abraham also commented on the variety of protest materials she saw.
“I think a lot of people that were there were fighting for good things, like they want a job and that this is an unlivable society because they’re out of jobs, but because there were so many people waving Trump flags and Confederate flags it kind of takes away from it,” Abraham said.
Collegiate Multimedia Editor Sabrina Edwards contributed to this report.