Michigan sheriff claims stay-at-home order is like placing residents under arrest

Michigan sheriff claims stay-at-home order is like placing residents under arrest
© WOOD TV 8

A Michigan sheriff compared the governor's stay-at-home order to a mass arrest of the state's residents while speaking at a rally this week opposing the coronavirus restrictions. 

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf told the gathering in Grand Rapids, Mich., that by definition the governor's measure was placing people of the state under arrest, according to MLive.com.

“What’s the definition of an arrest? It’s basically taking away your free will, your right to move about,” Leaf said, adding that "an unlawful arrest is when you do it unlawfully."

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"So when you are ordered to your home, are you under arrest? Yeah, by definition you are," he added.

Leaf was reportedly the only sheriff to speak at the "American Patriot Rally — Sheriffs Speak Out" event, which was held at the Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. Invoking the site's name, he argued that a barber in the state who had opened his business in defiance of the stay-at-home order was a “little version of Rosa Parks,” MLive.com noted.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued a stay-at-home order in March as the novel coronavirus began rapidly spreading throughout the U.S. Her order has prompted several protests in recent weeks, with demonstrators arguing that the measures go too far. In one instance, armed demonstrators entered the Capitol building as they called for an end to the restrictions.

The rally on Monday night came just hours after Whitmer announced that Michigan's northern region and Upper Peninsula would be allowed to open retail businesses, bars, restaurants and offices starting Friday. Bars and restaurants will be required to operate at reduced capacity. 

"This is a big step, and it’s right before the holiday weekend," she said. "I want to encourage everyone to stay smart and stay safe. Keep your wits about you. Let’s not all go rushing out and force a closure."

Leaf acknowledged the development during his speech, saying that it “took some wind out of my sails," MLive.com noted. But he also asserted that the phased reopening should have happened sooner given the number of confirmed cases in the regions.

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He told WOOD TV 8, a local news station, that he believed Whitmer's order was "constitutionally" illegal and said that his office was not enforcing the measures.

"Right now we don't even know if those orders are legal. If we start enforcing stuff that's not legal, we could be held liable," Leaf said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Michigan had reported 52,350 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 5,000 deaths due to the virus.