NORTON SHORES, Mich. — President Donald Trump visited Muskegon County Saturday in a push to rally Michigan voters with just a few weeks left until the election. The rally was held by FlyBy Air at the Muskegon County Airport in Norton Shores.
Twice at the rally, the president referenced Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the crowd responded by chanting “lock her up.” While originating during the 2016 campaign cycle, these chants are especially pointed since federal officials recently announced the governor was the target of a kidnapping plot.
“You got to get your governor to open up your state,” he said to the first round of ‘lock her up’ chants. “And get your schools open. The schools have to be open.” Most of Michigan’s restrictions have been relaxed, and schools can be open for in-person, hybrid or remote learning.
The president then referenced the kidnapping plot: “I guess they said she was threatened, and she blamed me.”
The FBI foiled a plan to kidnap the governor, storm the Michigan Capitol and instigate a civil war. Fourteen men are charged in these plots. Several members of the group talked about “murdering tyrants or taking a sitting governor,” a criminal complaint said.
Eight of the men are facing state charges related to terrorism, and six others are facing federal charges.
Whitmer has said Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous. In April, he tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” encouraging protesters who were upset with COVID-19 restrictions. While Trump was still speaking, Whitmer retweeted a clip of the crowd chanting “lock her up,” saying “this is 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. It needs to stop.”
Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican who attended the rally, denounced the chants Saturday night in a tweet.
"Trump didn't chant 'lock her up' about our governor. But others did and it was wrong. She was literally just targeted. Let's debate differences. Let's win elections. But not that," he said.
The president spoke for about 90 minutes, using the stage to talk about some of his administration’s accomplishments from the past four years, culture wars topics and a few mentions of Michigan.
Trump also mentioned the Friday decision by the Michigan appeals court to block a 14-day extension to accept and count absentee ballots. State law says that ballots need to be received by election day to be counted, but Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for an extension because of a record number of people voting by mail this year.
“We just won a huge victory for voting rights in Michigan,” Trump said.
A couple thousand people attended the rally, which is only the fourth time a sitting president has visited Muskegon County.
Julie Dagen, who is from Ravenna in Muskegon County, said she has never attended a political rally before Saturday’s but believes this election is “extra important.” Living in the area, she said it means a lot for the president to visit Muskegon County.
“This is a working-class community and there used to be a lot of industry here, and he has brought back industry,” Dagen said.
Kari Hibbard, who attended the rally with her family, thinks that Trump will win Michigan again, after eking out a victory in 2016 with less than 11,000 votes. Hibbird is from Norton Shores, where Muskegon County Airport is located.
“It’s a small, little city and it just feels very honoring that our president chose to be here to come and talk about police too,” she said. Hibbard said her husband works in law enforcement.
People gather for Trump Rally in Muskegon County
At Heritage Landing, a Democratic event was held at 4 p.m. to counter Trump’s rally. Muskegon County Democratic Party Chair Jennifer Barnes said earlier this week, they planned the event one hour before the president’s rally because they want to keep “momentum” going.
"I thought it was important to show the contrast, that Democrats are a force here in Michigan as well," said Julie Bratton.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Muskegon County by a thin margin of 1,177 votes—making it one of only two counties in West Michigan to vote Democratic. Before that, Muskegon County had a solid track record of voting blue, with President Barack Obama getting 59% of the vote in 2012, and 65% in 2008.
Both Trump and Biden have put Michigan in their sights. Biden stopped in Grand Rapids two weeks ago and held events on the east side of the state on Friday. This is Trump’s second rally in Michigan in the past month. And both candidates have also sent surrogates to campaign in the state in recent weeks.
The president ended his speech by encouraging people to vote and submit their ballots on time. Michiganders can register to vote online and via mail through Oct. 19. After that, individuals can register to vote in person at their local clerk's office.
The general election is on Nov. 3.
Watch the full rally here:
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