MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Tensions continue to rise in Michigan over that state's stay-at-home order, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently extended until May 28. Today, protests at the state Capitol were a little calmer than two weeks ago when some demonstrators with guns stood over lawmakers in the state Senate gallery. The Democratic governor described how that's affecting life for lawmakers. This was yesterday on "The View."
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GRETCHEN WHITMER: We have legislators who are showing up to work wearing bulletproof vests. That is disenfranchising thousands of people in our state if their legislator doesn't feel safe enough to go to work and to do what their job is.
KELLY: Abigail Censky from member station WKAR in East Lansing was at the protest today. She joins us now.
ABIGAIL CENSKY, BYLINE: Thank you.
KELLY: This is the third time protesters have showed up at the Michigan Capitol. Tell us more about what you saw today. What's been going on?
CENSKY: So there were far fewer protesters who were there today than previous protests. But what was different about this one was the level of threats against Governor Whitmer were increasingly graphic and violent, despite polls that show most people in the state actually approve of her response to the outbreak. This protest was billed ominously as judgment day. And the brawl between Governor Whitmer and the state legislature, which has sued her, has kind of fanned the flames. Some officials were calling the energy before today's protest a powder keg. And that definitely made people a little nervous today.
KELLY: Sure. To this issue of protesters who showed up with guns, we should note it is legal to openly carry weapons and legal inside the Michigan state Capitol. But after what happened two weeks ago, some Democratic state lawmakers have called for a ban on guns in the Capitol building. Where does that stand?
CENSKY: Our attorney general has submitted a formal legal opinion, saying that the Michigan Capital Commission has the authority to ban guns in the building. But the Capitol Commission Monday said basically they're afraid to do so without looking into if they have the authority to actually do that without the legislature making a law. And our Republican Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, called a gun ban cowardly but still denounced the threats against Governor Whitmer. This is a little bit of what he said in a floor speech earlier this week.
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MIKE SHIRKEY: The individuals who have populated a number of social media posts with crude, violent and threatening messages about our governor, these folks are thugs, and their tactics are despicable.
KELLY: Abigail, you were able to interview some of the protesters who turned out today. Tell us what's on their mind. What did they say they want from Governor Whitmer?
CENSKY: Yeah. So while these protests are filled with fringe, more extreme groups, there's a handful of people who show up to all of the protests who are just plain frustrated by the lack of a plan and metrics. I talked to Matthew Rainey and his daughter who drove 2 1/2 hours to protest in the pouring rain this morning. He said he's frustrated by the lack of a plan to reopen, and that takes a toll on him emotionally as well.
MATTHEW RAINEY: It's had more effect on psychologically, too. As far as, like, my daughter being her senior year, she doesn't get to experience the things that most people do during their senior year - a prom that she's going to miss. Sorry (laughter) it's hard for me.
CENSKY: Rainey and his daughter were just reiterating how much of a big thing this is for them. People's patience here is starting to wear thin with an unemployment system that's overburdened and staying at home. We're in phase three of a six-part plan to reopen the state, but there aren't clear-cut metrics on how we get to the next phase.
KELLY: To the next phase. All right. That is Abigail Censky from member station WKAR. Thanks for your reporting.
CENSKY: Of course. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.