Michigan Closes Down Capitol in Face of Death Threats From Armed Protesters Against Gov. Whitmer

On Thursday, Michigan closed down its capitol building and canceled its legislative session after online death threats made against Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The threats were made by protesters who planned to attend a "Judgement Day" protest at the capitol. The protesters ostensibly oppose Whitmer's statewide shutdown orders meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Dozens of posts in private invitation-only Facebook groups called for Whitmer to be hanged, lynched, shot, beaten or beheaded. One suggested crowdfunding sources to hire a hitman to kill her.

"We haven't had any bloodshed yet, but the populous [sic] is counting to three, and yesterday was day two," wrote Dave Meisenheimer in a 385,000-member Facebook group called Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine. "Next comes the watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants," he concluded.

Numerous other posts referred to Whitmer as a "Nazi," "spawn of the devil," "wicked witch," "Soros puppet," "baby killer tyrant" and more, according to the Detroit Metro Times. Others promised to attend upcoming protests "armed to the death" and without face masks, threatening to attack any police officers who dared confront them.

Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have considered banning firearms from the Capitol building but are awaiting the six-member Michigan State Capitol Commission to figure out if they have the legal authority to do so.

"There are legislators who are wearing bulletproof vests to go to work," Whitmer told ABC News last week. "No one should be intimidated by someone who's bringing in an assault rifle into their workplace."

Newsweek reached out to Whitmer for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

Armed protesters Michigan Governor Whitmer
Armed protesters provide security as demonstrators take part in an "American Patriot Rally," organized on April 30, 2020, by Michigan United for Liberty on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, demanding the reopening of businesses. Jeff Kowalsky / AFP

On May 13, Democratic state Senator Mallory McMorrow revealed that she and fellow Democratic state Senator Dayna Polehanki co-sponsored a resolution to prohibit firearms and dangerous weapons in public areas of the Capitol building and to install screening checkpoints.

"We have an obligation to keep all visitors and workers at the Capitol safe," McMorrow wrote.

"When I read some of the words that were published this week, it's not about staying at home, it's not about maybe losing your business ... it's about spreading blood on the front lawn of this building, and I would be lying if I said that sitting in my chair with four men in rifles behind me didn't make me think that I was going to be [dying from gun violence] very soon," McMorrow said in a May 12 speech to the legislature.

"Yeah, we're supposed to stand up here and say we're brave and we're not intimidated," she continued, "but guess what: That is damned intimidation and it is not welcome, and my question back is what the hell are we going to do about it? Or do we wait until something happens?"

On Monday, Whitmer asked Vice President Mike Pence to discourage the ongoing anti-lockdown protests for fear that participants might spread COVID-19 to her state's rural areas.

On April 29, President Donald Trump offered support for anti-lockdown protesters by tweeting, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN." Trump defended the tweets, saying that some state's social distancing policies are "too tough."

"What he's saying, when he has a Twitter following of millions and millions of people and gets instant coverage in the U.S. and all over the world, it's very very dangerous," McCord told Newsweek. "There are people, armed people out there who listen to what he says and they act up on it in ways that are not always peaceful."

The following weekend, after an April 30 protest at the capitol in which some protesters carried firearms, Confederate flags, nooses and swastikas, Whitmer said the protests "depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country... The behavior that you've seen in all of the clips is not representative of who we are in Michigan."

Despite the demonstrations, polling has shown that a majority of Michigan residents support the strict lockdown measures put in place by Whitmer.