Video: Detroiters defy stay-home order to mingle in Rouge Park

March 26, 2020, 1:09 PM by  Violet Ikonomova

Police issued one misdemeanor citation after hundreds gathered at Rouge Park Wednesday. 

Clusters of people congregated in a packed parking lot at Rouge Park Wednesday in apparent defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-in-place order, which prohibits people from gathering in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

A now-viral video posted to Facebook shows people mingling closely between vehicles, drinking from red solo cups and approaching acquaintances to bump elbows. At one point, a Detroit police cruiser rolls through the rows of vehicles and drives off without issuing tickets or ordering people to disperse.

Officers later cleared out the park and issued one ticket to an alleged violator of the governor's order, Detroit police Cpl. Dan Donakowski said. An estimated several hundred people were gathered. 

Detroit is the epicenter of Michigan’s coronavirus outbreak and one of the nation’s worst-off hotspots, with 717 cases and 15 deaths as of early Wednesday. The city’s caseload is growing faster than it did early on in hardest-hit New York City, where there are now more than 20,000 confirmed cases and 280 deaths.

The shelter-in-place order announced Monday prohibits people from leaving home except for activities like grocery shopping, hospital visits and outdoor recreation that can be performed six feet away from others. "Willful" or deliberate violation of the order is a misdemeanor with a penalty of $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail.

The order was top-of-mind for those being filmed. Many expressed concern about being seen in public, with one woman saying, “somebody gonna call the state board on us.”

Hundreds of people commented on the video in dismay. Coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets and carriers can be asymptomatic.

In a separate video posted around the same time, a visitor to Rouge Park said police were “shutting down Rouge.”

“It was packed... they was hooping and everything,” they wrote.

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