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Whitmer Says State Can’t Stop In-Person Rallies

Michigan Executive Office of the Governor
Governor Gretchen Whitmer provides an update on Michigan's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a press conference Wednesday, September 16, 2020.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday there’s not much she can do to stop President Donald Trump or other political campaigns from holding big rallies in Michigan. That’s despite the fact that those rallies violate her executive orders.

The governor’s orders limit indoor and outdoor gatherings and require people to wear masks and practice social distancing. But lots of people at Trump rallies have ignored the orders, which the governor called “troubling.”

“The federal guidelines will tell you it’s unsafe to pack people into a venue without masks where people are projecting their voices. That’s the federal guidelines.”

But Whitmer, a Democrat who supports Joe Biden, also said it’s probably not practical to enforce her orders when it comes to political rallies.

“We know that there are 1st Amendment rights here that are at issue,” she said. “We also know that the practicalities of going in and enforcing this on candidates probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Whitmer also said she supports the Big 10’s decision to allow an abbreviated football season. That’s after the conference reversed its earlier decision and agreed to protocols to allow football games.

Whitmer said it’s not her decision, but she’ll keep a close eye on how things play out at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

“We’re all trying to do what we can to engage in some normalcy to keep people safe,” she said, “and there’s not a perfect way to do this.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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