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Facebook removes event for rally at Michigan Capitol

The protest is to urge Michigan lawmakers to vote down extending the state of emergency.
Credit: AP
Protesters gather at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Facebook said it removed an event for a rally scheduled at the Michigan Capitol for 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 30. 

The American Patriot Rally on Capitol Lawn event was removed for advocating for in-person gatherings to defy government health guidance on social distancing, a Facebook spokesperson said. 

The rally plans to protest extending the state of emergency in Michigan, which  runs through April 30.  

The state of emergency is not the same as the stay at home order, which is in effect until May 15. Rather a state of emergency allows  Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to issue a variety of orders and directives. Whitmer plans to ask the legislature for a 28-day extension on the state of emergency.

The governor first declared a state of emergency on March 10, and it provides the basis for more than 60 executive orders that have been issued to quickly address the spread of COVID-19. State law only allows such a declaration to last 28 days without approval from the legislature. 

This state of emergency was extended by 23 days through April 30, when the legislature voted down Whitmer's request for a 70-day emergency. The state of emergency has provided the basis for more than 60 executive orders from the governor, including closing schools and the stay at home order. 

Michigan lawmakers are meeting Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

The Facebook event for the rally said it is advocating for the Michigan Senate to vote no on the extension. 

Facebook said that the company understands that people might be protesting stay at home orders right now and they are allowing those events to be organized on their platform. After a gridlock protest drew thousands to Lansing on April 15, similar protests have popped up across the country. 

However, the company said they are removing content that pushes people to defy social distancing guidelines, which have been imposed by governments. They said they require protests to make it clear that people attending need to adhere to social distancing measures. 

"Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government's guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook," said a company spokesperson. 

The American Patriot Rally on Capitol Lawn event already has a new listing on Facebook; more than 260 people have said they're attending. 

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