LANSING, Mich. – Scores of armed protestors swarmed the Michigan state capitol building, demanding to be let out of the suggested, but ultimately voluntary, stay-at-home order the governor issued last month to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Ignoring social distancing orders and refusing to wear face masks that weren’t the Confederate flag, they wielded Walmart-branded tactical gear and forced their way into the Michigan State House to scream at the building’s security guards.
“Everyone deserves to be free!” they chanted.
“Lock her up!” they continued.
Tyler Funk, a high-school dropout and Second Amendment enthusiast, said that the protest was against tyranny.
“The governor can’t tell people to stay home,” he claimed, sweating under the weight of the bazooka he carried on his shoulder and the tactical vest he was wearing backwards. “Only my mom can.”
Gene Trauch, another protester wearing a yellow bandana over his face with a snake on it, agreed.
“If you have a problem with us, you should read the Constitution and live without fear.”
Trauch, however, did not respond when asked for his thoughts on the progeny of Jacobson v. Massachusetts and the subsequent Supreme Court jurisprudence of the states’ broad ability to protect public health under the police power provided to them by the Tenth Amendment. He also couldn’t name a Constitutional right that was actually being violated at the moment.
Other protesters stopped short of claiming tyranny, though they still showed up to criticize the governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which they claimed was too harsh.
“She just shut down stores because some people were getting sick,” Paul Condon vented, hoisting a sign that said “I need a haircut” over his bald head. “The cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease. Thousands of people might die, but we all have retirement plans that are hurting from this shutdown!”
68-year-old Gretchen McCutcheon drove hundreds of miles from Kalamazoo to take part in the demonstration.
“This Chinese virus only kills people my age, and we’re all willing to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our children’s economy,” she said. Formerly a Walmart greeter, she admitted that she’d quit when her boss called her in to work out of fear of contracting the virus. When asked which of her friends were willing to keep working, she stammered before clutching the microphone and shouting “MAGA!”
Her son, 42-year-old Hutch, chimed in to say that he “wasn’t a pussy” and would “happily keep my shifts at Taco Bell” if he hadn’t been laid off.
“It’s not like I’m at risk,” he added. “People like me, we only get minor symptoms.”
When asked who he would be willing to asymptomatically spread the disease to, he admitted that he didn’t understand the question.
Jeffrey Jackson, who drove from outside Carson City to take part, claimed that he had a solution for the coronavirus.
“Two words: Herd immunity. Why haven’t the so-called scientists thought of that one, yet? Just let the coronavirus run its course. There are new viruses every year. How many people could it kill?”
“Two million,” a nearby counter-protester told him.
“That’s only a fraction of the lives we lost in 9/11,” Jackson claimed.
Karen Geraldino, a 22-year-old stay-at-home mom of 7, brought all of her kids to the event to “show them what democracy looks like.”
“I can’t homeschool them, anymore,” she mumbled in a defeated monotone, hair unkempt and clutching a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. Of the four children that hadn’t lost, yet, three of them were playing around the makeshift memorial of a popular protester who died the week prior from drinking bleach. “They need to open the schools, again. How can I teach my 8-year-old things I never learned?”
Everyone at the demonstration, though, agreed that they were sick of being stuck at home.
“I have a bunker full of baked beans and toilet paper,” Jackson stated. “I’m ready for the end of the world or another black president, but this was something different. Stores need to reopen for people like us.”
When asked if he was worried that opening businesses back up would put the workers at risk, he asked, “So what?”
The issue is one that is especially important in Michigan, where a quarter of the state’s workforce has filed for unemployment. Should stores reopen and bosses call their employees in to work, those people would stand to lose their unemployment benefits if they refuse, no matter how scared they were of contracting the virus.
“We’d have to choose between earning an income or staying safe,” one counter-protester said.
Tyler Funk, though, focused on the crippling toll that the lockdown has had on his mental health: When the local Applebee’s closed, he no longer had a place to open carry his bazooka.
“Places need to open back up,” he said simply. “I’m bored and lonely and I have nothing to do, anymore. I have open carry rights, but no one sees how responsible I am when I do it at home. Governor Whitmer has to reopen the economy and force people to go to stores, again. There are dozens of us out here!” Funk yelled. “Dozens!”