'Lock her up' chants erupt as Trump attacks Whitmer at Michigan rally

President Donald Trump arrived at the Muskegon County Airport in theatrical fashion. Fans roared when his incoming flight was announced via air traffic control audio, and again when Air Force One touched down and circled the tarmac before parking for Trump to emerge. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

MUSKEGON — President Trump renewed his attacks against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a raucous Muskegon rally on Saturday evening, blasting what he called “draconian” COVID-19 safety regulations as his supporters broke into chants of “lock her up.” 

The refrain came less than two weeks after state and federal authorities foiled an alleged militia plot to kidnap the governor and put her on trial for “treason” before the Nov. 3 election. 

Whitmer, a national co-chair for Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s campaign, quickly criticized Trump’s latest commentary, calling it “exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans.”

The governor last week urged Trump to dial down his rhetoric, but Trump wasted little time rejecting that request in his first visit to Michigan since the kidnapping plot was exposed.

Related stories: 

“You’ve got to get your governor to open up your state, okay?” Trump said minutes after stepping off Air Force One and onto a stage at the Muskegon County Airport surrounded by bleacher grand stands, American flags and thousands of supporters. 

“And get your schools open,” Trump said as the crowd began to chant “lock her up,” a rallying cry Trump supporters first used against Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

The chant broke out again when Trump suggested that if Biden were elected, he would impose a “draconian lockdown, like your governor is doing right now for everybody but her husband.”

Trump did not join the chant but appeared to egg on supporters: “Lock ‘em all up,” he said in response.

President Trump rallied with thousands of die-hard supporters Saturday in Muskegon as he looked to gain ground in polls that show him trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in Michigan. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Lockdown claims miss the mark

Trump’s claims, like others he’s made in recent weeks, do not reflect the actual state of COVID-19 orders in Michigan.

Michigan’s economy is already back open, albeit with capacity limitations for some businesses and other public safety regulations. Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon revived Whitmer’s safety rules this month after the state Supreme Court invalidated an emergency authority law the governor had used to issue orders of her own.

Many Michigan schools are open as well — but that’s a choice local districts are allowed to make under a law negotiated by Whitmer and the GOP-led state Legislature

As for the governor’s husband, he name checked his wife in late May when he asked a marina if he could jump to the front of the line and get his boat in the water when Whitmer first relaxed regulations in northern Michigan. When the request became public, Whitmer called it a “failed attempt at humor” by her husband, a dentist who has been subject to the same regulations as other Michiganders.

Whitmer and Trump have repeatedly sparred over the coronavirus pandemic. She has criticized him for failing to coordinate a federal response, arguing he exacerbated the crisis and prolonged the national economic fallout. Trump has argued Whitmer went too far with her early lockdown order and other measures, at one point early in the pandemic encouraging protesters with a call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

Trump tested positive for COVID-19 in early October and was hospitalized for three days but has since pronounced himself recovered and returned to the campaign trail.  He’s one of more than 8 million Americans who have contracted the coronavirus this year. Of those, more than 219,000 have died, including 7,010 Michiganders.

But the president made little mention of the public health crisis in his Saturday night rally, which flouted state rules against large gatherings. His campaign called it a “peaceful protest.”

“Biden and the Democrats want to keep Michigan locked down, locked up and closed for business,” Trump said. 

Whitmer staffers rose to her defense. 

As the governor’s deputy digital director, “I see everything that is said about and to her online,” Tori Saylor wrote on Twitter during Trump’s speech. “Every single time the President does this at a rally, the violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media.”

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Levering Republican who warmed up the crowd before Trump’s speech, pointed out that the president himself did not chant “lock her up” about Whitmer.

“But others did and it was wrong,” Chatfield wrote on Twitter after the rally. “She was literally just targeted. Let’s debate differences. Let’s win elections. But not that.”

In the crowd at Trump’s rally in Muskegon, supporters wore a familiar mix of red, pink and camouflage MAGA hats. Several draped themselves in Trump flags. Some wore face masks, but many did not. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Assessing other claims

The president returned to familiar topics in his Muskegon speech, including a widely debunked claim that he was once named Michigan’s “man of the year,” an apparent reference to a 2015 speech at an Oakland County Republican Party dinner, whose chairman has denied he gave any award to Trump.

Experts say voter fraud is rare, but Trump again cast doubts on the security of mail-in voting and told supporters the Michigan Court of Appeals delivered a “huge victory for voting rights” with a Friday ruling prohibiting clerks from counting absentee ballots that arrive after election day. 

In a state where cars still rule, Trump saved his biggest boasts for the auto industry -- and that’s an area where he has some clear victories to celebrate. 

“We brought your plants back,” he told the crowd, suggesting “many” car plans are now being built or expanded in Michigan.  

Fiat Chrysler is building its first new plant in Detroit in almost three decades and expanding other facilities, a $4.5 billion investment to create nearly 6,500 jobs.  Ford Motor Co. plans to renovate Michigan Central Depot in Detroit by 2022 and bring 5,000 employees to the city.

Waymo, the electric car company linked to Google, is building a factory in the Detroit area. And Navya, a French company that builds driverless shuttles, reportedly plans to build a small facility in Saline. 

Nonetheless, job creation in Michigan’s auto manufacturing sector has been stagnant during Trump’s tenure.

Michigan started 2017 with about 42,300 auto manufacturing jobs and ended 2019 with 41,200, a 1,100 loss. Through August, the state had lost another 3,900 auto manufacturing jobs in 2020.

A Michigan blitz

Trump is trailing Biden in Michigan polls with less than three weeks left before the election, but Saturday’s visit was the latest in a statewide blitz by the president and his campaign: Son Eric Trump spoke in Novi on Tuesday; Vice President Mike Pence spoke near Grand Rapids on Wednesday; and daughter-in-law Lara Trump, spoke in Saginaw County on Thursday. 

West Michigan, a former GOP stronghold where Democrats have made inroads, remains a critical battleground for both campaigns. Hillary Clinton narrowly won Muskegon County in 2016, topping Trump by 1,117 votes as he won the state by 10,704 votes, the narrowest margin in Michigan history. 

Biden is targeting Michigan as well in an attempt to reclaim the state for Democrats. He spoke in Grand Rapids earlier this month and then spent Friday in Southfield and Detroit, where he spoke at a drive-in rally, calling himself a “car guy” from a stage sandwiched between a Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet Corvette. 

Basketball star and businessman Magic Johnson was set to campaign for Biden on Saturday in Detroit and Lansing. Jill Biden, the former vice president’s wife, is expected back in Michigan on Tuesday. 

Trump is down in the polls, but “we saw that before” in 2016, noted state Sen. Roger Victory, a Hudsonville Republican who spoke to Bridge Michigan before the Muskegon rally began.  “The other side is not going to take it for granted, so I think it’s going to be a full-court press on both sides.”

Victory, a farmer, said Trump has not “forsaken” Michigan or its agricultural industry, which the president has heavily subsidized amid a trade war with China that had depressed crop prices. Commodity prices have rebounded, he said.

“We had some tough situations with negotiations with China, but he’s never turned his back,” Victory said of Trump. “He held right strong, and right now we’re starting to harvest the fruits of those negotiations.”


The president arrived at the Muskegon County Airport in theatrical fashion. Fans roared when his incoming flight was announced via air traffic control audio, and again when Air Force One touched down and circled the tarmac before parking for Trump to emerge.

In the crowd, supporters wore a familiar mix of red, pink and camouflage MAGA hats. Several draped themselves in Trump flags. Some wore face masks, but many did not. 

Many waited hours, and battled occasional rain on a chilly fall day, to see the president they hope to re-elect. Among his staunchest supporters, few could identify any faults with Trump.

Paul Berry of Muskegon Heights didn’t wear any Trump gear to the rally but said he had nothing to prove because the president already has his vote. He was upbeat about the direction of the country despite losing his factory job at an auto supplier in March when the pandemic first hit Michigan. His wife was laid off from her job at Walmart, he said.

“I’m actually surviving pretty well,” said Berry, 49, who credited expanded unemployment benefits and other federal relief provided through a federal stimulus that has largely run dry amid political infighting between Trump, House Democrats and Senate Republicans. 

Critics gave Trump a “raw deal” on COVID-19, Berry said. “The whole world was competing for [personal protection equipment] from that same stockpile, and everybody’s trying to judge our president on hindsight.”

Gary Shepherd of Norton Shores, 72, said the garage door installation company he’s retiring from and selling to his son has“grown leaps and bounds” since Trump cut regulations and taxes. 

And “that’s allowed us to give the employees more money,” he said. 

Shepherd told Bridge he’s not concerned by Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, he agrees with Trump’s criticism of public health orders from Whitmer.

“I’m not buying into it,” he said of COVID-19. “I suppose you’ve got to be a little careful, but I think they’re going to extremes. The restrictions are crazy. It’s hurting a lot of the businesses.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Sun, 10/18/2020 - 12:20am

So much for unbiased reporting.

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 11:40am

What does "unbiased" mean to you and what is an example of bias in this article?

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 4:32pm

Very true and extremely unfortunate

Sun, 10/18/2020 - 8:19am

Chatfield needs to go along with his white supremacist brothers and sisters in the Putin Party.

George Hagenauer
Sun, 10/18/2020 - 9:37am

One thing not talked about is that recent studies are starting to show that children can carry a far higher viral load than adults- the ramifications of that may be quite serious for the schools. Also as a senior on social security the real long term threat to businesses is not the virus but that seniors who have some income to spend will quite spending any excess income because the President and the Republicans are out to kill social security by removing its funding stream. Myself and others have already started saving as much as possible in case we lose most of our income in 3 years.

Sun, 10/18/2020 - 12:40pm

Democrats seem to havhard time time handling being called out on their management of things or their lawless attitude. So many people hurt by Gov. Witmere orders, just devastating so many michganlanders lives, livhoods and even ending early the lives of love ones through sending knowingly infected covid patients into nursing homes.
As far as the kidnapping, it is easy to get indictments to charge inviduals in a grand jury speciallyin this case because of the amount of social media posts. But you also know of all the threats made by the left against the president, ignored. There are also many many people that I have heard talking believe it is a political move to victimize the Governor because people are so upset about the damage she done.
People chanting at a rally to allevete some of their stress is hardly a comparison to the left looting, burning down businesses, tearing down statues, damaging innocent people's property and violently hurting people who don't agree.
On top of that many Republicans and now the WHO have come out and said the damage done by the lockdowns was unnecessary and 80% of the people wearing masks are the ones getting infected. That's why a representive government is so important so all the people have a say, not just one or a few as in the case of the Governor who was finally told she did not have the legal right to do what she has done to this state.
Her dictates just didn't effect republicans but me too.

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 11:48am

States that didn't shut down also saw a dramatic rise in the number of people filing for unemployment as well as business closures.

Whitmer didn't force nursing homes to accept COVID patients. It's not true no matter how many times it gets repeated. In fact, Michigan has one of the lowest percentages of nursing home deaths: https://www.9and10news.com/2020/10/01/michigan-ranks-38-out-of-45-states...

Mask use does not increase chances of infection. This is another frequently debunked claim. https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/mask-use-does-not-lead-to-a-highe...

Here's a study showing that the number of COVID cases declined substantially after Arizona implemented a mandatory state-wide mask policy: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6940e3.htm

"Her dictates just didn't effect republicans but me too."

You are literally repeating republican talking points.

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 8:56am

You are wrong on the nursing home front. I work in a skilled nursing home and we were mandated to make 10% of our beds for COVID patients. Not our own residents who got it but patients from hospital overflow and those who werent sick enough for the hospital but needed extra care.

Sun, 10/18/2020 - 12:51pm


Sun, 10/18/2020 - 9:21pm

It seems the reporter and editor doubt the intellect of the Muskegon crowd. They don’t seem to appreciate that, ‘locker her up’, was a metaphor to push back on the Governor’s ‘lockdown’ of all Michigan.
Where the reporter/editor followed about the ‘chant’ with the alleged kidnapping scheme, and with Bidens, “exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family and other government officials’ lives in danger…”, and Governor Whitmer’s request for her opposition to tone down the rhetoric is a blatant effort to demean those who were part of the crowd at Muskegon airport.
This was Michigan residents venting their frustration with our Governor’s actions and Bridge makes it about the President, by bring back the 2016 campaign trying to link that to the kidnap planning by a small group of fringe characters. Why shouldn’t residents be frustrated, Muskegon has not been in the Bridge Covid 19 articles like Flint and Detroit, and yet it has been treated just as Detroit and Flint, lockdown. Why does Bridge feel a simple three-word chant during a peaceful gathering at an airport before national camera have to be painted as such sinister people? When and how are residents supposed to voice their frustration so Governor Whitmer’s might hear them?
Bridge reporting leaves an impression of prejudgment of the Muskegon community, west Michigan community, and all who disagree with Governor Whitmer and her actions. What I saw of the event, it was civil, people we wearing their PPE, they were doing something that Governor Whitmer encourage back in March, when she delayed her lockdown until after the Democratic Primary ensuring all the campaigning, without protection, was done as planned.

John Chastain
Mon, 10/19/2020 - 10:27am

There is no "intellect" within a mob mentality and the chant "lock her up" isn't "metaphor". It like the Trump led chant directed at Hillery Clinton and reinforced by Trumps recent tantrum over "his" justice departments failure to target his political "enemies" is intentional and real not "metaphor". Besides Trump doesn't do "metaphor" and neither does his collection of sycophants and cronies. The crowd gets it & I'm sure you do to. Trumps rallies are reminiscent of the Nazi's Nuremberg rallies with the same ginned up bigotry, aggression and ignorance. There was no "intellect" or "civility" present, just an authoritarian thug and his adoring "crowd".

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 3:12pm

You need to let go of the 2016 campaigns, Hillary didn't go to jail. That tells us the Trump rallies aren't like the 'Progressive' rallies where their chants about the police and those who don't fall in line with their actions lead to violence, much like the Nazi rallies. Look at what has been happening in Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, and on an on.
The reality in Muskegon following the rally and chants was everyone went home peacefully, there was none of your worries happening.
I wonder why you can't accept the reality, time and again the 'Progressive/Liberal' massing events have repeatedly led to what you claim to be so upsetting and are trying to claim about this Trump rally. I doubt you have ever been to the Muskegon community, I doubt you have ever met the people of Muskegon, I doubt you even understand diversity of perspective and how it what has made America so great. What I know of the Muskegon community lives that diversity of perspective.
It is the diversity of perspective that is keeping America the beacon of liberty and hope for the world.

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 11:39am

Too true Duane. The truth is inconvenient for some people.

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 1:03pm

Well Trump apparently missed the metaphor too since his reply was “Lock ‘em all up,”.

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 11:04pm

How can you be so sure he missed? Have you seen any of Trump's foes locked up, for all the criminal acts the Democrats and Hillary did in 2016 and since, so why not see the chant as a metaphor?

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 5:44pm

It seems the reporter and editor doubt the intellect of the Muskegon crowd. They don’t seem to appreciate that, ‘locker her up’, was a metaphor to push back on the Governor’s ‘lockdown’ of all Michigan.

Yeah, nobody could mistake that for the "lock her up" chant we heard when DJT wanted Hillary locked up. Was that a metaphor? Was it a metaphor when the crowd chanted for Joe and Hunter to be locked up, with chants of "lock him up" or lock them up"?

Is it a metaphor when DJT tells America that dems are taking your freedumbs and being dictators?

Do you think America is as naive and gullible as you are?

It seems as though you do. The rest of us would like some respect before you address us.

Can't get some, unless you are willing to give some.

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 2:08pm

Every carnival needs the "rubes" to turn out Duane, so they can keep the show going and keep living off of your money.

Jeff M
Mon, 10/19/2020 - 8:24am

Trump supporters, sycophants, cult-followers, in Michigan make our state a laughingstock internationally. It's so embarrassing. Yet this idiocy is more contagious than covid spreading internationally as a new gospel according to Trump, destabilizing the entire free world. Covid cases spike again because people think masks aren't necessary and covid has been exaggerated/cured.

Meanwhile Michigan's own superspreader participant in the charade Ronna McDaniel is Trump's number one cheerleader. She says the governor didn't open the schools, failing to mention that local schools made that decision.

Trumpists just lie lie lie about everything and most Evangelicals cheer them on as well, following Trump instead of Jesus. Well, not this pastor:


To some people, principles matter. Putin is smiling. Jesus is crying.

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 8:42am

--his supporters broke into chants of “lock her up.”

Yeah, we all heard it, but one wonders if people on Trump's campaign circulate through the crowds starting such chants.

I call BS
Mon, 10/19/2020 - 8:47am

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Levering Republican who warmed up the crowd before Trump’s speech, pointed out that the president himself did not chant “lock her up” about Whitmer.

Chatfield lies like a rug. If you listen to the tape, Trump literally repeats the chant. How can Chatfield, who claims to be a Christian, testify to such lies?


He not only says lock her up, but says "lock them all up". That's how lying dictators talk.

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 8:56am

No masks = more dead republican voters in Michigan thank to trump and the virus that he is spreading!!!

George Hagenauer
Mon, 10/19/2020 - 10:06am

Actually Trump again fell into the Whitmer trap. having her chair the campaign and become a Trump target was a good strategy given that a key target swing vote group are suburban moms. My guess is every time Trump goes after Whitmer (especially now after the kidnapping) another pile of suburban female swing voters move to Biden or stay with Biden. Will be interesting to see if it plays out that way.

Barb Z-B
Mon, 10/19/2020 - 10:12am

Pro Life?
Wear a face mask!
Vote out a legislator who doesn't support Governor Whitmer.
Vote for a legislator who supports face masks and social distancing.

Donate to your favorite Democratic legislator in Michigan's House and Senate. Donate and vote for Senator Peters.

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 5:23pm

What a gathering of radioactive turds !

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 3:34pm

So unbiased reporting isn't facts....