The orders by Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, are among the strictest in the nation, barring residents from crossing the street to visit neighbors or driving to see friends.
The organizers of the demonstration, the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund, had asked protesters to honk horns and to display flags and signs. Given the risk of viral transmission when assembling in a crowd, they cautioned drivers not to leave their cars for what they called “Operation Gridlock.”
But as the sound of car horns filled the air and signs and banners proclaimed “Live Free or Die,” “Make Michigan Work Again” and “We Deem Our Governor Non-Essential,” a few dozen people protested on foot, most of them maskless, in front of the statehouse.
From the top of the steps, they chanted “freedom, freedom, freedom,” waving American flags and at least one “Trump 2020” flag. Earlier, the state police had said that there would be very little enforcement action unless they saw a threat of violence.
Denny Bradley, 33, told the Detroit News that he was the sole breadwinner for his family and that his employer, an auto supplier, had been shut down for three weeks. He carried a sign that read, “I want to work.”
Michigan has recorded about 27,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,700 deaths. Ms. Whitmer has said the state must stay the course with its decision to close businesses and restrict movement.
Other states have also seen protests in recent days. A demonstration on Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., resulted in arrests of protesters, some of whom were standing close to one another and carrying signs that said “Reopen N.C.” In Columbus, Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said last week that he could hear protesters chanting their opposition to his stay-at-home orders, and that he understood their frustration and supported their right to protest.