Unlock Michigan, the group behind a petition to terminate public health orders in the wake of the COVID pandemic and strip Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer of her executive powers has announced they won’t be submitting the petition to be placed on Michigan ballots — despite having enough signatures to do so. Journalist Yue Stella Yu of the independent media outlet, Bridge Michigan, tweeted the news.
JUST IN: Unlock Michigan 2.0 — the ballot initiative aiming to restrict pandemic orders by health officials — is not submitting signatures by tomorrow's deadline.
The campaign says it'll focus on pushing for similar bills next year when new legislative leadership takes helm. pic.twitter.com/IMVrjLaSq9
— Yue Stella Yu (@bystellayu) May 31, 2022
Formed in 2020, Unlock Michigan was critical of Gov. Whitmer’s decision to use a 1945 law – the Emergency Powers Act – to extend lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic. Whitner issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order – which included restrictions on purchases from chains stores of paint and garden supplies, travel throughout the state, and use of boats. The organization believes lockdowns were an infringement on Michiganders’ constitutional rights. On its website, the group states its mission:
“Unlock Michigan is a coalition of concerned Michiganders who believe that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s crushing lockdown of life and business across Michigan is a dangerous threat to our livelihoods and constitutional liberties. We believe it’s time for the people to take back the power and reform Michigan.”
At the same time as Unlock Michigan’s founding, groups like the Betsy DeVos-connected Michigan Freedom Fund would descend on the Capitol in Lansing for Operation Gridlock. Two weeks after that, the rotunda would be breached by armed far-right militia members. According to In These Times and The Detroit Free Press, two of the men in the photo below – taken by MI State Senator Dayna Polehanki – were arrested in the plot to kidnap the state’s governor six months later.
Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today. #mileg pic.twitter.com/voOZpPYWOs
— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020
In September 2020, Unlock Michigan fell under suspicion of fraudulently obtaining signatures after numerous complaints from residents. According to Michigan Daily, residents were told they were signing for other causes when presented with petitions. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released a press release saying:
“The Attorney General’s office has received complaints from residents who report they were deceived by petition circulators who were gathering signatures to support the efforts of Unlock Michigan, which is trying to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. Residents said they were told the petitions were to support LGBTQ rights, for medical marijuana initiatives or to help small businesses, among other things.”
A month before, in August 2020, the Detroit Free Press reported that one of the companies contracted to collect signatures on behalf of Unlock Michigan had a history of “bait and switch” tactics. Let the Voters Decide advertised payment of $3.50 per signature collected to potential petitioners, who reportedly used “shady” tactics to get those signatures. Add to that the fact that the owner of the company, Mark A. Jacoby, was suspected and arrested for voter registration fraud in California. Accused of falsifying his voter registration, Jacoby pled guilty in 2009 to registering to vote at an address that was not actually his residence.
The next month, another company contracted to collect signatures – In the Field – would be exposed for high pressure and illegal tactics when one of their trainers was secretly recorded. That trainer was overheard telling a group of trainees:
“This can be a real shady job. And when I say shady, I mean, people do all sorts of illegal s— all the time and never get caught. It’s really hard to get caught doing s— except for, like, forgeries.”
Click here to listen to the audio of that conversation.
Keep Michigan Safe — the group pushing back against Unlock Michigan — is responsible for the recording. Its spokesman, Mark Fisk told Detroit Free Press that:
“Unscrupulous and illegal tactics have become standard operating procedure for Unlock Michigan and this video showing a trainer encouraging people to break the law and lie under oath fits into a disturbing pattern.”
According to Unlock Michigan’s spokesman, Fred Wszolek, even though they allegedly have a sufficient number of signatures, the group has chosen to wait until the next legislative session to submit them, hoping that there will be a power shift. The group is “hopeful a new governor will join us in the reform effort.”
Multiple anti-lockdown protests took place in Michigan during peak pandemic countermeasures. In October 2020, the FBI arrested 13 men involved in a domestic terrorist plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer from her vacation home. Six were ultimately charged. According to John Flesher at Associated Press, several men charged in the plot were members of the Watchmen. One of the men, Brandon Michael-Ray Caserta, reportedly said in response to an interaction with police, “they should give the officers one opportunity to leave, and kill them if they did not comply.”
During the months following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order, multiple concerted efforts to undermine her authority and her attempts to keep Michiganders safe took place — from Unlock Michigan to the Wolverine Watchmen to armed protests and a failed kidnapping plot — all within a six-month time frame. Could this all be coincidental? Or is there a wider conspiracy that needs to be uncovered?
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick