Meet the Trump-loving group behind protest of Gov. Whitmer’s stay-home order

SLIDESHOW: The Michigan Conservative Coalition’s “Operation Gridlock” protest of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home order drew about 4,000 people to the state Capitol in Lansing on April 15. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

Protesters at the “Operation Gridlock” event were upset over Michigan’s tough stay-at-home restrictions, which ban travel between homes, power boating and the purchase of paint or lawn supplies from big-box stores. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

The Michigan Conservative Coalition emerged from organizers of the Tea Party movement and is fiercely loyal to President Donald Trump. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

Some 4,000 protesters descended on Lansing on April 15 over restrictions that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says are necessary because Michigan has become a national hotspot for the coronavirus. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

A protester wearing a Donald Trump mask and waving a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag stands at the Michigan Capitol, flouting a stay-home order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

The Michigan Conservative Coalition’s “Operation Gridlock” protest in Lansing has inspired other protests of stay-home rules throughout the nation. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, which banned professional landscaping crews from working, is set to expire next week. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

Oct. 8, 2020 updates:

LANSING — Meshawn Maddock says her phone has been ringing “nonstop” since the Michigan Conservative Coalition organized a massive state Capitol demonstration to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s aggressive stay-at-home order to fight the deadly coronavirus.

Activist groups across the country are asking how to pull off an “Operation Gridlock” in their own states, and reporters from around the world are “freakin’ hounding me” for interviews about the event that has spawned nationwide copycats, the Republican organizer told Bridge Magazine.

Maddock is proud of the April 15 protest, calling it a “moving” demonstration that showcased economic anxiety over the ongoing state lockdown. But she said she’s upset so many people got out of their vehicles, defying her group’s instructions for what was promoted as an in-car event.

Indelible images from the protest include Michigan Militia members carrying firearms on the Capitol lawn, activists violating social distancing guidelines and more than one Confederate flag paraded next to a statue of Austin Blair, Michigan’s governor during the Civil War and a staunch opponent of slavery.

“Of course the militia is disappointing to me, the Confederate flag — look, they’re just idiots,” said Maddock of Milford in western Oakland County. She also left her car during the protest to talk to reporters and direct traffic but noted most of the 4,000 protesters stayed in their vehicles. 

“I don’t know. Some kid with a flag that wants to make a point, I can’t control people like that.”

Critics contend the Michigan Conservative Coalition has tacitly encouraged similar behavior. The group,  co-founded by her husband, now state Rep. Matt Maddock, promotes limited government and lobs rhetorical bombs at those who challenge President Donald Trump.

Whitmer said it is a “sad irony” that protesters may have prolonged the need for her stay-home order by spreading the virus. The state’s leading health groups issued a statement supporting her restrictions, while nurses at nearby Sparrow Hospital in Lansing condemned the protest as irresponsible.

The rally is the latest headline-grabbing event for the group that last year hosted a “Squash Amash” protest in Grand Rapids targeting U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, who had recently left the Republican Party to become an independent and accused Trump of “impeachable conduct” following a probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

And the group was instrumental in organizing anti-impeachment protests that disrupted town hall meetings last winter hosted by Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Holly and Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills, both now up for re-election in November. 

“They were always kind of around the fringes — more interested in thuggery than advancing any kind of real ideals or policy objectives,” Jeff Timmer, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, said of the Maddocks and other Tea Party organizers that founded the group. 

Trump’s win four years ago “gave them what they view as some modicum of credibility, and folks like them who used to hide from the light like cockroaches now feel enabled to come out and do what they do,” said Timmer, a vocal Trump critic.

Michigan Conservative Coalition organizers, on stage during the group’s Battle Cry 2020 conference in February, from left to right: Bill Rauwerdink, Marian Sheridan, Matt Maddock, Meshawn Maddock and Roseanne Ponkowski. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Established conservative networks have launched similar protests around the country, but organizers maintain the Lansing event — one of the first and largest — was a grassroots affair despite an assist from the Michigan Freedom Fund, a Republican advocacy group tied to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. 

In criticizing the event, Whitmer suggested organizers were “funded in large part by the DeVos family,” which she called inappropriate given ongoing federal recommendations to maintain social distancing and limit travel.

But the Freedom Fund’s financing was limited to a $250 Facebook ad, according to executive director Tony Daunt. In order to promote the protest, he had asked Maddock to make his group a “co-host” on the Facebook event page, Daunt told Bridge. “The governor was just flat wrong in her comments last week,” he said.

The protest event page was also widely circulated within a Facebook group called “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine” overseen by Garrett Soldano, a former Western Michigan University football player who has reportedly and inaccurately claimed a juice drink he is paid to promote can help prevent or treat COVID-19.

The Michigan Conservative Coalition was the primary organizer, however, and while it is not planning any other protests in Lansing, it is providing tips to like-minded groups in other states and encouraging them to use the “Operation Gridlock” title, Maddock said.

Political activism is a family affair for Meshawn and Matt Maddock, who celebrated Valentine’s Day as stars of the Michigan Conservative Coalition’s annual Battle Cry conference. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

‘It’s our Republican Party’

Bridge has spent months looking into the Michigan Conservative Coalition, which operates two tax-exempt nonprofits, two state political action committees and also legally organizes under the trademarked name Michigan Trump Republicans.

Once a minor player in an outsider movement, the group has worked its way into the mainstream of Republican Party politics by organizing activists fiercely loyal to Trump. 

The Michigan Conservative Coalition has instigated high-profile attacks against Democrats targeted by the Trump campaign, spearheaded outreach efforts to woo suburban female voters who fled the GOP after 2016 and recruited precinct delegates to reshape the party from within. 

A Michigan Trump Republican endorsement, meanwhile, has become a coveted prize in GOP primaries.

“I feel like it’s time for conservatives to start using the same tactics that the left has used for a long time, and I don’t want to be passive about it anymore,” Meshawn Maddock told Bridge in February at the group’s annual Battle Cry conference. 

“I’m really not interested in bipartisan or reaching-across-the-aisle politics. The world is divided right now, and I’m OK with it, because the truth is, I feel like I’m on the right side.”

The Michigan Conservative Coalition began the Battle Cry conference in 2016 with a call to action: “It’s our Republican Party. We’re taking it back.”

Four years later, “we are now party officials, so we kind of took it back,” said Maddock, who now serves as chair of the 11th Congressional District Republican Party and is part of the national “Women for Trump” campaign team.

Her husband, a bail bondsman, is serving his first term in the state House. The group’s co-founder Marian Sheridan is now grassroots vice chair for the Michigan Republican Party, and its president, Rosanne Ponkowski, is now vice chair of the Oakland GOP. 

“The president has done something nobody thought was possible,” Maddock told fellow activists. “He took the grassroots, and he made it the establishment.”

More than 300 of the group’s most dedicated activists paid to attend the two-day training event at the San Marino Club in Troy, where they celebrated Valentine’s Day in unusual fashion with dinner and wine. 

Inflatable heart balloons hovered over the white-clothed tables, while red “Make America Great Again” swag bags sat on the floor. 

“I completely forgot about Valentine’s Day,” said Deborah Eli, laughing as she stood beside her husband. “It’s really bad, but I’m doing bigger and better things.”

Wine in hand, Gary Eli nodded in agreement. He pulled out his cellphone to show off pictures of the Mid-Michigan Trump Republican “store and information center” his wife runs in Saginaw County, where she is a full-time political volunteer.

“She got flowers and a card, but this is really her Valentine’s Day,” he said of Battle Cry.

Over two days, activists heard speakers like conservative columnist Michelle Malkin and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. In recent years, the conference has drawn high-profile Trump allies including Corey Lewandowski and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza.

State officials with Trump Victory, the joint presidential campaign and Republican National Committee organization, trained activists on how to generate pro-Trump media attention by protesting Democratic lawmakers like Slotkin. 

Republican candidates such as Shane Hernandez, a state lawmaker from Port Huron who is running for Congress in the 10th Congressional District, addressed the crowd, while others like U.S. Senate hopeful John James sent staff members to hand out literature at campaign booths. 

Activists cheered as Malkin preached partisan purity and blasted Republican Party “phonies” like past presidential candidates Mitt “Snake” Romney and the late John McCain, who had been the standard bearers of the GOP before clashing with Trump. 

“It’s super important that when you find like-minded people, people who share the same principles as you, that you stick together like glue,” Malkin told the already tight-knit crowd. “Like Andrew Brietbart said, this is war. We cannot trust fraggers inside the tent.”

“I completely forgot about Valentine’s Day,” said Deborah Eli, laughing as she stood beside her husband, Gary, at the Michigan Conservative Coalition’s Battle Cry conference. “It’s really bad, but I’m doing bigger and better things.”  (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Tea Party roots

Sheridan, the group’s co-founder, was involved in the Tea Party movement and told Bridge she knew the Michigan Conservative Coalition was tapping into something big when Trump supporters began flooding the group’s Walled Lake office and voter information center four years ago in the run-up to the 2016 election.

“We could tell from the traffic coming in that the ground was about to shake,” said Sheridan, who works as a real estate agent in West Bloomfield.  “People would come in and they wouldn’t leave.”

The group, now primarily led by women, has held “Trumperware parties” and “MAGA home parties” as they appeal directly to female voters who fled the GOP after Trump’s election and helped pave the way for Whitmer and other Democrats to win election in 2018. 

The in-home events help show women that there are other Trump supporters in their neighborhoods, Sheridan said, and that’s important “because so many Trump people are keeping it quiet.”

Behind the scenes, helping pull the strings, is Bill Rauwerdink, a private-equity firm owner who was shunned from the Michigan Republican Party after doing time in prison for what the Detroit Free Press called “one of the largest financial frauds in Michigan history.”

Rauwerdink now serves as co-director of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, which he calls the “parent company” that manages public brands like Michigan Trump Republicans, Trumperware and Women for Trump. 

The group’s rising profile has opened doors for Rauwerdink, who told Bridge he joined Meshawn Maddock as a VIP guest at Trump’s re-election campaign kickoff last summer in Orlando and at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting at Trump’s Doral resort in Miami, where they mingled with the president and Eric Trump. 

“It was a big love-fest,” Rauwerdink said of Miami. “We asked to be a guest, and they said sure.” 

Timmer, the former executive director of the state GOP who identifies as a traditional conservative, said the rise of groups like the Michigan Conservative Coalition are part of the reason he no longer calls himself a Republican.

“I put them under one umbrella of crazy,” he said, suggesting the party had once worked to drown out voices “of chaos and hate and division” that have now become “key cogs” in the Trump re-election effort.

“They stand for nothing ideologically or policy-wise except Trump,” said Timmer, who was a state adviser for John Kasich’s presidential campaign in the 2016 GOP primary. “Trump is their wrecking ball. They always wanted one. They found one.”

The Michigan Conservative Coalition has used its Facebook channel to call for a boycott of National Geographic for “promoting the idea that transgender children are acceptable” and to ridicule lawn signs declaring that “black lives matter”, “women’s rights are human rights” and “no human is illegal.”

Activists at the Michigan Conservative Coalition’s 2020 Battle Cry conference in February signed their names to a “wall” to celebrate President Donald Trump’s continued calls to build a wall at the United States-Mexico border. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Other Facebook users have visited the Michigan Trump Republicans page to share conspiracy theories and offensive memes, including posts suggesting U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is a terrorist sympathizer, former President Barack Obama was part of ISIS and that former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg committed a “hate crime” by kissing his husband on stage.

As protesters stormed the Michigan Capitol last week, the deputy director of a liberal advocacy group resurfaced an image the Michigan Conservative Coalition had once shared of a GOP comedian suggesting “everyone who hates Trump got their opinion from pedophiles.”

“That’s the type of rhetoric and the ideas that we’re dealing with,” said Sam Inglot of Progress Michigan. “Their Facebook pages and where these groups organize and have discussions are hives of misinformation, xenophobia and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric all while licking Trump’s boots.”

A family affair

Activism is a family affair for Meshawn and Matt Maddock, who no longer serve on the Michigan Conservative Coalition board but remain heavily involved in the group. Their youngest of three children, 18-year-old Parker Maddock, now works as a Trump Victory organizer.

“It’s really all Matt and I do,” said Meshawn Maddock, who had been a stay-at-home mom watching her husband organize the grassroots before she got the political bug herself.

“He would come home from conventions, and I would listen to him complain about the establishment shutting them out,” she recalled. “He did that for about six years, and I finally followed him when my kids got a little bit older and I found my own voice.”

The couple owns A1 Bail Bonds, but they can largely run the company from their phones, leaving them with a “lot of free time” for politics, Maddock said. Call center employees can dispatch the company’s 15 agents around the state to post bonds. They also have a group of trusted bounty hunters who they can send out to track down absconders, she said.

“We don’t protect criminals,” Maddock made sure to point out. “What we do is secure bonds to make sure people go to court.”

The Michigan Conservative Coalition raised money at its annual Battle Cry conference in February by selling Trump Champagne, Trump socks, an autographed Eric Trump hat and more. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Matt Maddock helped found the Michigan Conservative Coalition and said he has been involved in grassroots politics since the mid-1990s, when he first became a GOP precinct delegate. Last year, the group helped recruit 1,200 activists to run for precinct delegates in an attempt to continue reshaping the Michigan Republican Party from within. 

“A handful of us decided that we were fed up with Republicans not behaving as Republicans, so we decided to start Battle Cry as a grassroots movement in order to encourage Republicans to behave like Republicans,” Matt Maddock told Bridge, explaining the annual conference.

“We are in the midst of a conservative revolution here in Michigan and the U.S. These are exciting times for the entire country. Trump is at the forefront of this movement.”

Maddock is past president of the Michigan Bail Association. Before devoting himself to politics, he also occasionally worked as a bounty hunter, tracking down accused criminals who failed to show up for court after using his firm to post bail.  He considers Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman a friend, and the reality-TV star came to Michigan in 2018 to help Maddock raise funds for his state House campaign.

“That’s fun work,” Maddock said of bounty hunting. “Eighty percent of the time a fugitive is not dangerous, but 20 percent of the time they can be very, very dangerous.”

Now serving in the Michigan Legislature, where criminal justice reform has been a rare area of bipartisan consensus, Maddock said he is fighting “left wing” efforts to eliminate cash bail, arguing that private bondsmen provide a public service by bringing fugitives back into custody at no cost to the taxpayers. 

He’s also coming to grips with his new role as a party insider after years in the grassroots.

“Trump is also becoming the new establishment -- and Trump supporters,” Maddock said. “We are seeing a paradigm shift within politics and throughout the nation.”

Social welfare

The Michigan Conservative Coalition operates primarily as a “social welfare” nonprofit under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, a status that allows it to engage in some political activities without losing its tax-exempt status but prohibits it spending directly on campaigns or political candidates.

The group is not required to disclose donors.

In a 2017 tax filing, the Michigan Conservative Coalition reported $135,356 in gross income, including $132,296 at fundraising events it spent $116,516 hosting. The group reported spending another $8,531.95 on professional fees, printing, publications, postage or shipping — none on staff salaries — and ended the tax year with $12,451 in the bank. 

Organizers highlighted two major “program service accomplishments” in the 2017 tax year: Training precinct delegates at Battle Cry, and recruiting Republicans from around the state to run for local precinct delegate positions to change the party from the inside. 

Little else is known about the nonprofit's finances because it reported less than $50,000 in gross receipts for 2016 and 2018, which exempted it from detailed IRS reporting requirements, and the group’s 2019 tax year filing is not yet due. 

A separate Michigan Conservative Coalition Foundation, organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has reported less than $50,000 in gross receipts each year since earning tax-exempt status in 2015.

The MCC also operates a state-level super political action committee that allows it to spend directly on political campaigns. It has reported $70,013 in contributions since 2015, but many of those donations appear to actually be ticket sales or fees for Battle Cry conferences.

The super PAC paid a $3,000 speaker fee to conservative comedian Steven Crowder and also transferred another $10,000 to separate Michigan Trump Republicans PAC, which spent about $9,000 on political mailers and text messages supporting legislative candidates, including Reps. Maddock and Steve Johnson and Sens. Tom Barrett and Jon Bumstead. 

“This is all a volunteer organization,” said Ponkowski, the vice chair of the Oakland GOP who is listed in tax filings as the president of the Michigan Conservative Coalition. “We put this time in because we love our country and we love our kids.”

But the group’s activities — and vocal support for Trump in an election year — appear to at least blur legal lines, said Mark Brewer, an election attorney who advises nonprofit clients and is a former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. 

Recruiting precinct delegates is “what a political party does,” Brewer told Bridge. “That’s not what a (c)(4) does. That’s not social welfare in my view. Precinct delegates are party people. They perform party functions.”

The Michigan Conservative Coalition is not doing anything wrong by training activists or advocating on issues, Brewer said. But urging residents to work for Trump’s re-election, as organizers did during Battle Cry “crosses the line, in my view,” he said. 

“An incorporated entity can’t be doing that,” Brewer said.


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Wed, 04/22/2020 - 1:36pm

This is an inflammatory and inaccurate title for your article. I protested. I do not support Trump. I never left my vehicle. I didn't stop to use a restroom or a gas pump. I packed a lunch and ate in my van. I am none of the things the media is trying to portray as dangerous or right wing.

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 4:15pm

Commenter, you sayin' don't believe the pictures?

Can't touch this
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 8:10pm

The story is about the money and the puppetmasters behind the puppets. You know the ones stoking your fire as a distraction while Trump and Co rob the US Treasury.

Ronnie L
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 1:39pm

Partisan piece of crap article.

Funny, I am in some of those pictures, and I don't care for Trump one bit. There were many people there who strongly agree with me.

How about you guys cut back on the fake news, haven't you jumped the shark at this point?

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 3:52pm

Ronnie, which picture. They're all so handsome. You shouldn't care for Trump. Whitmer is merely enforcing HIS guidelines and HE's the one who bungled the long anticipated Paycheck Protection Program Congress passed for SMALL BUSINESSES. Working class people and the poor are suffering a great deal serving the wealthier classes. Whitmer is doing a great job reducing the number of new cases in the state and trying to work on science-based plans to reopen the economy in a safe way. The GOP, especially in Michigan, always take their marbles and go home in a tantrum. They are useless. No one should be protesting in such reckless ways, especially now. You NUTS are only prolonging the agony. You say you don't care for Trump one bit. Do you like your fellow protesters with their confederate flags? Do you like this guy?

Looks like he still lives with his parents. Is that YOU?

Hank Quayle
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 4:50pm

Partisan, you need to stop pushing the hoax that "Whitmer is merely enforcing HIS guidelines"- the Detroit News and other outlets have debunked this several times now. First, I don't know what HIS guidelines are- the Governor said she was relying on guidance on "critical infrastructure workers" issued by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, but she is not in fact. Her orders increasingly differ from those 'guidelines'. And although you are correct that she is 'enforcing' these guidelines, that is not all she is doing- she is also issuing the 'guidelines' that guide legal behavior in Michigan with her Executive Acts- and that's what is bothering people. She has no models that is is relying on (at least none that anyone has seen), there are no studies she is using to back up her actions (at least none that anyone has seen), and the 'science' that she claims to be using is nowhere to be found in her executive actions. It's power, politics, partisanship, and self-promotion. To criticize that is correct, no matter how much name-calling you do.

Midwest Compact
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 8:15pm

Well, then we should give Whitmer all the credit for the state going from third place to seventh place in new Covid 19 cases. Some think Trump deserves credit too for his guidelines, but you seem so partisan.

Painful Truth
Thu, 04/23/2020 - 4:14am

Hank, this article is all about know who pulls your strings.

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 5:30pm

The organizers of the protest have made it clear that they are pro-Trump in every way possible. If you don't want to be associated with that group, then you probably shouldn't participate in their protest. That being said, the article wasn't about the protest. Just the organizers. If you're really not a Trump supporter, I think you're probably just angry to find out about the people you've associated with, not the reporting.

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 7:27pm

If you buy a used car off a crack dealer, you might wonder if the guy is being honest about only driving it to see his parole officer once a week. Anytime I see Jonathon Oosting’s name on a article, it’s like talking to that crack dealer about his car. Do you trust what the guy is saying? In Jon’s case, I smell someone with a political agenda. So instead of informing, his articles appear akin to partisan gibberish. Thus is credibility for Bridgemi lost. Nothing unique for news outlets these days.

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 4:26pm

Too funny!

Susie Que
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 4:42pm

There was a lot of good reporting in here about a group active in Michigan politics. I wonder why these particular groups were singled out and not the hundreds of other groups in Michigan that spend far far more money? There have been many protests in Lansing over the years, and the Bridge has never (as far as I've seen) ever done any write-up's on the groups behind them. There have been many candidates that have run, and the Bridge has never published any pieces about them. These groups appear to be small in number, with small budgets, and rather amateur operations- is the only reason that they are being targeted is because they have been wildly successful in getting such a high-profile protest together? Is this article supposed to be more of a celebration of the success of a small group to effect positive change?

Sadly, the great reporting and research in this article was undone by the slant and bias that was also included. For example, what exactly is "rhetorical bomb-throwing"- have you ever seen any other group's or politician's activities described this way? You have an entire article about a group that has principles and objectives and ideals, but yet include a quote from some Democratic operative that accuses them of being "more interested in thuggery"?

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 5:36pm

The "Democratic operative" who was described as, lemme check the article here. . . "a former executive director for the Michigan Republican party" and was a state adviser of the John Kasich campaign? That "Democratic operative?" Because it seems to me that while he's rejected the Republican party for its move to the right, he's not exactly a "Democrat." Who's the one with bias again?

Just me but..
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 5:55pm

"rhetorical bomb-throwing"
I think something along the line of claiming the government is denying your liberty while you are standing on the steps of the state capital with a freakin semi automatic rifle in your hand would count as an oxymoron and rhetorical bomb throwing.

I want my Ice Cream
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 8:20pm

As ironic and funny as the GOP, party of Lincoln, embracing protesters who wave the confederate flag! Funny, weird, strange, idiotic, and most of all extremely disrespectful all at the same time.

Hank Quayle
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 7:09pm

Wait- are you saying that the media timed this piece to try to distract people from the fact that the Governor gave a no-bid contract of taxpayer money to a Democratic organization to pay them to collect personal and medical data on the people of Michigan? That the Governor with no explanation, no competitive bids, and no oversight awarded taxpayer money and opened up the private information of citizens to the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations? That the media is trying to distract people with this profile on a small group that engages in legal behavior so that they don't see the potential crimes that are occurring right in front of our faces? No way!

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 8:21pm

So scandalous.

Betsy McCaughy
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 7:12pm

Susie, I think you got this wrong. If this was a 'hit piece' like you suggested, then it was pretty pathetic as a 'hit piece.' You have here a long article about a small group of citizens who belong to a legal organization and are concerned with protecting the rights of the people of Michigan. I don't think it made these Maddock people or any of the others look bad- they seemed to be positive, hard-working, decent Americans from the article. I don't think that it was a partisan or biased profile at all- after reading this, I think I support this group and their activities now.

Sun, 05/03/2020 - 9:14am

This "small" organization is a subset of Mercer's "Convention of States" organization which is much larger. Mercer is the billionaire behind Steve Bannon, btw. There is nothing "small" about MCC. They're also partially funded by Betsy DeVos. And there was nothing grassroots about these protests, although they were obvious magnets for white supremacists and those 100 or so online groups out there that are spoiling for a civil war. White boys, after all, gained their centuries-long control of the West by murdering everyone who got in their way and the GOP is led by them and manipulating the hoi polloi to further their own ends.

Hoping for logic
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 6:19pm

Why protest during a pandemic with a virus that only cares to infect and multiply and not for those whom it infects? Why put yourself and others at risk to defy executive orders put in place because the federal government did not have a coordinated plan and only provided “guidelines” only to have that same federal government encourage you break them?
Why did the federal government pass the buck to states and turn around and tell the citizens of those states to “liberate” them?
By law this is considered sedition “to incite rebellion or insurrection”.
How and why do citizens support the chaos created by the contradictory words and actions of the federal government?
The federal government passed power to states, why tell citizens to rebel against the one group trying to help save the people they swore to protect and serve?
Ask yourself: if another country told me to “liberate” my state would I? Why does the federal government have the authority to do so after it passed the responsibility to the states? What is going here, does any of this make sense? What is the evidence I need to make an informed decision for both my health and future?

Kevin Grand
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 7:30pm

Because the Huwan virus affects primarily the elderly and those with comorbidities. The overwhelming majority of those taking part last week stayed in their vehicles and exercised common sense precautions without being incessantly prompted by Gov Karen.

And I don't know where you watched the coverage of Operation Gridlock last week, but I saw a very large and peaceful protest of Michiganians having had more than enough of a governor who not only cannot adequately explain her "orders" or even provide the data/methodology behind issuing them, but also remember that we have this little something called the Bill of Rights, which last I checked, CANNOT be suspended on a whim by an overbearing, insecure, narcissist of a governor.

If THAT wasn't worth protesting, then what is there to look forward towards if you let those precious freedoms slip away under the guise of "safety"?

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 10:31am

Maybe if the umpa lumpa in the white House would stop floping around like a carp out if water and help the governors with guide lines things would start getting to a new normal. All he is worried about is campaigning . Just maybe, instead of complaining about what you cant do, go volunteer at a hospital , call your elderly neighbor and see if you can help them in any way. Bitching about things isn't going to help matters . Everyone just needs to step back and think , what if your spouse, child or parents were sick, you would complain that enough wasn't done to stop the virus. people need to get off their high horse and walk in a health care workers shoes and be on the front lines of a hospital for a day. People that are protesting are acting like spoiled children that don't get their way.

Minimum GED please
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 8:30pm

Simple it's just like little kids that poop in swimming pools and don't think about getting out. Same level of mental development. They don't realize their reckless behavior affects everyone, including themselves. Another example is when they say they want to elect someone who will blow up the system. It's asinine, self-destructive, makes no sense to anyone other than others who think the same way.

Marching orders
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 8:32pm

You'd have to ask Alex Jones or someone close to that level of idiocy.

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 8:48pm

This is the cost of Trumps chaos platform. Scorched earth party will not end well for our country. As the Lt. Governor of Texas is quoted " there are more important than life". FACT CHECK this quote. Freedom of ignorance is your right.

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 9:00pm

Trump chaos at its worst. Maddox couple has discovered what party they represent . It takes a disaster of this proportion destroy a party. Are you sure you want to spread this venom to other states. NEVER AGAIN TRUMP!!

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 9:44pm

Meanwhile us Southerners will get back to work! GOOD LUCK up there!

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 11:31pm

The good news is that when there is great economic suffering due to the lockdown not only will people know who caused it, they will know who tried to stop it. So bashing the protesters actually gets their message out.

A Proud Independent
Thu, 04/23/2020 - 9:52am

“I’m really not interested in bipartisan or reaching-across-the-aisle politics. The world is divided right now, and I’m OK with it, because the truth is, I feel like I’m on the right side”. I believe this statement encapsulates the problem with today’s politics. I’m old enough to remember that those who had an ability to collaborate and reach across the aisle were admired and celebrated. Collaborative governance is the only way we are going to find our way out of this COVID-19 pandemic, and the only way we can move forward as a country. Unfortunately, the Republican Party has been hijacked by Trump and his divisiveness, and by the Tea Party and groups like the Michigan Conservative Coalition. Thank you, Bridge, I now have a bit more insight into some of those responsible for the hijacking of the Republican Party in Michigan.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 2:16pm

Thanks a lot for the article covering the background of this group. It's good info.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 2:55pm

Do remind all readers to send sympathy cards to the families of any of the clowns who were protesting without keeping distance and wearing masks. interesting the gun nuts were there, too. I guess they will shot the coronavirus with their weapons. Wow! So impressive!
But do remind us to send sympathy cards to any of the people who contract and then pass on the virus.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 3:49pm

Sorry but I see the same people responsible for making Mi an unattractive state to live in for the last decade. They started out as the Tea Party, a party supposedly tired of tax money being wasted. NOT...It was nothing more than a collection of racist, Xenophobes, misogynist and or RW fringe provocateurs. All funded by dark money or those that have unfairly gained financial gain by tax cuts that hurt the middle class of Michigan. Its evident that Bridge Mi is NOT a nonpartisan site with its glowing write up of people endangering responsible people who honor the CDC and Governor’s virus containment requirements.

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 5:24am

How is this a "glowing" article, when they quote the utterly despicable statements on this group's Facebook page?

Mary Milican
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 9:11am


Please someone investigate Governor Whitmore's irresponsible handling of providing protection for both corrections officers and inmates. She made a statement on Friday that she did not have authority to release them. So that brings the question, why do our neighboring state governors have the authority? I believe this is not true. Michigan is the only state that keeps non violent inmates past their earliest out date. These inmates have served their time and are not a threat to the public. They should be immediately released to help free up space to help in social distancing. Which is next to impossible inside due to crowding. Both CO'S and inmates are dying every day.
I hope you will see the value of saving human life to draw attention to this situation.

Dawn Ordus
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 11:46am

My mother passed away late March. I need to go to Detroit to help my siblings settle her estate. Am I allowed to travel from Huron County legally under these circumstances without getting a fine? My family really needs my help!

Christopher E C...
Thu, 04/30/2020 - 3:37pm

What you mean is "Meet the Constitutionalists that are stopping communism and socialism."

Sun, 05/03/2020 - 9:02am

Playing politics and fostering division while people die is not being "on the right side." The governor is doing this the right way, putting lives first and using facts and data to inform a re-opening plan. We gave the governor that power in emergency situations for the greater good. She represents all of us, even those who oppose her for political reasons. Tens of thousands of Michigan residents are still vulnerable to COVID19. Their Right-To-Life does not end because these clowns want to go shopping.
Furthermore, NO political organization should be granted 501c3 status. The reason so many GOP operatives went for that was so billionaires like the Mercers, Kochs, and DeVos could dump millions of dark money into PACs and call it a tax deduction. Dirty money, I call it. They want a single party fascist rule and a government as weak as possible so they can do whatever the heck they want. That's not being on the right side, either. That's just evil corruption by sociopaths without conscience.