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Saturday, June 06, 2020

Hundreds march across Portage Lift Bridge in peaceful, youth-led protest against racist violence

By Michele Bourdieu

Hundreds march through Houghton toward the Portage Lift Bridge on June 3, 2020, in protest against the death of George Floyd and other victims of racist violence. Participants in the peaceful march, organized by a local high school student, crossed the bridge to Hancock and returned to Houghton, displaying many signs to passing traffic. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- "No Justice, No Peace!" and "Black Lives Matter!" were the rallying cries heard on the Portage Lift Bridge on Wednesday, June 3, as participants of all ages, the majority young people, crossed the bridge in a peaceful, yet energetic, protest against racist violence -- in particular against the unjustified deaths of African Americans at the hands of brutal police, as in the recent case of George Floyd, murdered by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

While not intended to be anti-police, the march included some signs referring to specific victims of police brutality attributed to racism.

Carrying signs of "I Can't Breathe," a young family marches together across the Lift Bridge to express their empathy for victims like George Floyd, who spoke these words as four Minneapolis police officers, one with his knee on Floyd's neck and three others assisting, held Floyd against the ground until he died.

Setting out from the upper parking lot in Houghton, marchers walked peacefully and quietly up Shelden Avenue, passing businesses and heading for the Portage Lift Bridge.

Participants in the June 3, 2020, March for George Floyd and other victims of racist violence walk past businesses in Houghton, Michigan, on their way to the Portage Lift Bridge. Some businesses were open and were friendly to the mostly youthful marchers. The Houghton Police assisted with directing traffic for safety. Click on YouTube icon for larger screen. (Videos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

Janeen Stephenson of Houghton was excited to see so many young people marching against racism.

"I'm happy it's mostly people who are decades younger than I am," Stephenson said.

Janeen Stephenson of Houghton displays a large sign for traffic crossing the bridge from the Hancock side. The words "I Can't Breathe" are those of George Floyd just before he died at the hands of police. The same words were also spoken by Eric Garner, an African American man who died in 2014 after being put into a chokehold by a New York City Police Department officer.

During the June 3 online meeting of the Houghton County Democratic Party, William Keith, Michigan Tech associate professor of mathematics, who attended the meeting and who had attended the march earlier the same day, was asked to speak about it.

Commenting on the great majority of young people participating in the march, Keith said, "It's definitely showing us there's energy out there."

Houghton businesses, local police supportive

Keith described a peaceful march up Shelden Avenue to the Lift Bridge, noting businesses they passed in Houghton were supportive and friendly.

"Several of the businesses we passed had supportive signs or at least the employees who checked out the march seemed supportive," Keith posted on Facebook. "Jimmy John's guy rolling up with refreshments too, good on them!"

Jimmy John's restaurant employee offers sandwiches to marchers walking up Shelden Ave. in Houghton. He told William Keith he was there in their official capacity. (Photo © and courtesy William Keith)

Keith, who is a mathematician, said he counted the participants.

"I did a headcount and over 500 people came out: that's more than 1 percent of the entire county!" he noted.

As the marchers continue to the top of Shelden Avenue in Houghton, passing cars honk in support. Many participants wear masks, and a variety of messages can be seen on their signs -- from "Black Lives Matter" to "It's About Human Rights," to "White Silence Is Violence" and many more.

"We stretched out over the bridge and back," Keith said.  "Getting across took a bit of time, but police helped direct traffic and one backup only lasted a few minutes."

Participants line the sidewalk on the Portage Lift Bridge, heading to Hancock and back. (Photo © and courtesy William Keith)

Marchers return from Hancock to the Houghton side of the  Portage Lift Bridge, chanting, "No Justice, No Peace" and "Black Lives Matter."

Organizer Gabrielle Mukavetz, Hancock High student: "The march was amazing!"

"Our community came together and spoke against racial injustice and police brutality," organizer Gabrielle Mukavetz, a junior at Hancock High School, told Keweenaw Now. "It had such an amazing turn out. I was so proud to be a member of our community. Around here, I feel as if not many people are outspoken about their beliefs when it comes to real world situations like police brutality and racism, but seeing everyone come together to support fearlessly was amazing. We want people of color around the world to know that the UP stands with them and will always fight for them and for their voice to be heard."

Addressing protesters gathered in the parking lot before the march, organizer Gabrielle Mukavetz (with megaphone),  announces that she is thankful for everyone who showed up to get everyone’s voices heard. She lets them know that there are extra signs and bottles of water if needed. (Photo © Kassy Kallio and courtesy Gabrielle Mukavetz.)

Mukavetz said she couldn't find any protests organized in our area so she decided to organize one.

"With the help of a few of my friends, everything went smoothly," Mukavetz noted. "I was expecting about 40-50 people to show up, but my mind was blown when hundreds of people started rolling in."

Asked if she has plans for her future after graduation, Mukavetz said, " I’m not positively sure what I want to do after graduation next year, but I really enjoy working with special needs kids, so I am looking into a career for that."

Local clergy participate in march

The Rev. Bucky Beach, pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Campus Ministry in Houghton, said he was grateful to Mukavetz for organizing the march.

"I am grateful to Gabrielle who had the idea and did something about it," Rev. Beach said. "She had no idea it would be that big -- and I am grateful for the gracious help from our local police departments."

Rev. Beach said he emailed all local clergy, inviting them to participate. He also helped interface with the police departments out of concern for the safety of all marchers and the police.

"As far as I know, there were 9 (clergy participating) -- one Catholic, 2 Episcopalians, one Presbyterian/UCC, and 5 ELCA (Lutheran)," Rev. Beach told Keweenaw Now. "I don't know if others were there or not. The Unitarians (KUUF) chose to quarantine and had a zoom vigil at the same time."

Rev. Beach added, "It was a marvelous event! Very positive energy that needs to be expressed as we struggle to deal with the underbelly of American life that has once again been exposed. People are clamoring for a new America and want their voices to be heard."

As the peaceful march across the Portage Lift Bridge from Houghton to Hancock and back comes to an end, with Houghton police guiding traffic for safety, some marchers descend from the bridge, while some remain, chanting for peace and justice and displaying their signs.

Houghton Police Patrolman Nathan Kinnunen was stationed on his bicycle at end of the bridge as the march was ending. He told Keweenaw Now several police officers were stationed at various points along the march to assure safety.

Houghton Patrolman Nathan Kinnunen, with his bicycle, watches traffic and marchers for safety at Houghton end of the Portage Lift Bridge. Another patrolman is stationed on the opposite side of the street.

Residents, visitors comment on march

Following the march, three young men who came from Dollar Bay, Michigan, to participate in the event, offered comments to Keweenaw Now on why they joined the march.

Pictured here, from left, are Israel Nelson, Jacob Iacono and Cade Klobucarich.

Israel Nelson, a Northern Michigan University student studying multi-media journalism, and presently living in Dollar Bay, said, "I feel that as a Black person I have to (participate)."

Jacob Iacono of Dollar Bay was glad to see so many people participating in the march.

"I feel like if we stay quiet nothing's going to change, and it's good for all these people to come together," Iacono said. "I'm proud to be a Black man."

Cade Klobucarich of Appleton, Wis., who is visiting his mother in Dollar Bay mentioned friendship as one reason he participated.

"I have Black friends," Klobucarich said. "Day after day I see videos of brutality, and it makes me very angry so I thought this would help."

Donica Hope Dravillas of Copper Harbor and her daughter, Madeline Mae Meilahn, 10, also participated in the march.

Donica Hope Dravillas of Copper Harbor and her daughter, Madeline Mae Meilahn, are pictured here during the June 3 march against racism. (Photo © and courtesy Donica Hope Dravillas)

"In this day, it is important for us to come together as a people and exhibit fearless peace," Dravillas said. "All races, all ages, and all demographics will be required to collaborate in order to end racism once and for all. Today gave me hope."

Madeline added, "I don’t really understand what is going on and why people Don’t like each other....But I hope that it all stops. I want to live in a peaceful world. Today."

Dravillas shared the following video footage she captured live while joining the march:

As the June 3 march against racist violence begins in Houghton, Michigan, Copper Harbor resident and marcher Donica Hope Dravillas captures Facebook live footage of protesters heading for the Portage Lift Bridge. (Video © Donica Hope Dravillas. Republished with permission.)

Relaxing on the grass near the bridge after the march were some families with young children, including Richelle Winkler, Michigan Tech professor in Social Sciences, and her family and friends.

Pictured here in the foreground are, from left, Molly Cavaleri of Houghton; her daughter, Lilia, 9; Richelle Winkler and her husband, Andy Roth. Richelle and Andy's two children, Josie, 8, and Sam, 11, are present but not visible in this photo.

"I think it's important to show support," Winkler said, "and I think it's time that we make some serious changes -- and we have to get everyone's attention to do that. This has been going on too long -- racism, injustice. I think our criminal justice  system is broken, and I think we need to re-think all of our institutions in how they contribute to racism."

Molly Cavaleri of Houghton said she brought her daughter, Lilia, 9, to participate in the march after learning about it on Facebook.

"It's really important," Cavaleri said. "It's important to show my daughter that we can't be silent about this."

Speaking about the death of George Floyd, Lilia said, "I think it was wrong."

Following the march, Ella McLeod, 9, of Hancock, left, and her friend, Josie Roth, 8 (daughter of Richelle Winkler and Andy Roth), display their signs, "Black People Matter," and "I Can't Breathe."

Josie Roth said she and her friend Ella McLeod participated in the march partly because "our Moms made us, and I wanted to see my friends."

Concerning the death of George Floyd, Josie added, "I saw lots of videos about it, and I thought it was wrong."

Ella noted their families are "tribing together" during the pandemic.

"I don't like racism," Ella said, "and I just kinda wanted to come also to see my friends."

After learning of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, local resident Melissa Baird began a silent protest on the Portage Lift Bridge on Friday, May 29, and continued it every day for eight days. Some days a small group of supporters joined her on the bridge. She participated in the June 3 March, but was not one of the organizers.

Displaying a sign, "George Floyd's Life Matters," Melissa Baird, left, is joined by two supporters during her protest on the Portage Lift Bridge on Tuesday, June 2. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

"I don’t think that my protest had anything to do with the march on Wednesday," Baird told Keweenaw Now on June 5. "I do know that the silent protest, that was for eight days, did raise awareness, and I met many people who came out to stand with me."

Protests against racism and police brutality occurred in several countries after the video of George Floyd's murder went around the world.

While some negative comments against the protesters by people in passing vehicles were reported by marchers, most of the reactions from people passing or driving by were positive and supportive.

Editor's Note: See the June 4, 2020, article, "The Protests Made a Huge Difference: All Four Minneapolis Cops Charged in Killing of George Floyd." The article includes journalist Amy Goodman's interview with Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney, activist, founder of the Racial Justice Network, and former president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Governor Whitmer signs Executive Orders reopening more regions; UP, northern Michigan move to Phase 5 June 10

At her June 5 press conference, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announces new Executive Orders reopening more regions and economic sectors. She is pictured here with MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. (Photo courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

LANSING -- Governor Gretchen Whitmer today, June 5,  signed Executive Orders 2020-114 and 2020-115 to reopen more regions and economic sectors under the MI Safe Start Plan.

Starting on June 10, Regions 6 and 8 -- which include much of northern Michigan and all of the Upper Peninsula -- will advance to Phase 5 of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. Phase 5 allows the reopening of salons, movie theaters, and gyms, subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

On June 15, personal services including hair, massages, and nails will reopen statewide. Though the remaining regions, 1 through 5 and 7, will remain in Phase 4 under today’s executive orders, the governor has said she expects the entire state will advance to Phase 5 in the coming weeks.

"Today marks another milestone in the safe reopening of Michigan’s economy," Governor Whitmer said. "As we continue to slowly reopen different parts of our state, it’s critical that we listen to the experts and follow the medical science to avoid a second wave of infections. The good news is that we are headed in the right direction, and if the current trajectory continues, I anticipate we'll be able to announce more sectors reopening in the coming weeks. We owe it to our front line workers to keep doing our part."

MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun noted general rates of decline in cases and deaths, with some regional differences.*

"While we must continue to monitor the data, because of these positive trends we are able to move forward, on a regional basis, with the next phases of the MI Safe Start Plan," Dr. Khaldun said. "Although the risk levels are going down, it does not mean it has gone away. Please remain vigilant, wear your mask, practice social distancing, and remain patient as we continue to fight COVID-19 together."

Under Phase 5, indoor social gatherings and organized events of up to 50 people are permissible. Outdoor social gatherings and organized events are also allowed if people maintain six feet of distance from one another and the gathering consists of no more than 250 people. In addition, outdoor performance and sporting venues will be open with a larger capacity limit of 500, which will allow for some outdoor graduation ceremonies.

In addition, Governor Whitmer has issued an updated rule laying out new workplace safeguards for gyms, in-home services, hair salons, and entertainment venues. Following these safeguards will ensure that workers and patrons alike remain protected as the state moves to reopen.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at and

To view Executive Orders 2020-114 and 2020-115, click the links below:
Executive Order 2020-115

Executive Order 2020-114

View the Governor's June 5 Power Point presentation here.

* Editor's Note:  One new positive COVID-19 case in Houghton County was reported by Copper Country Strong on June 3, 2020. Click here for the June 3 testing report on the Western UP Health Department's 5-county area.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Gov. Whitmer rescinds Safer at Home Order, moves Michigan to phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, right, joins Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a press conference today, June 1. Following Gov. Whitmer's announcement of Executive Order 2020-110, Dr. Khaldun spoke of the connection between racism and public health, urged businesses that reopen to do so in the safest way possible and advised people to continue social distancing and wearing masks. (Photo courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

LANSING -- Today, June 1, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-110, rescinding her Safer at Home order and moving the entire state to phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan.

The governor’s order will allow retailers to reopen on June 4 and restaurants to reopen on June 8, both subject to capacity limits and social distancing. Day camps for children will likewise be permitted to open on June 8. Effective immediately, groups of 100 or less will be allowed gather outdoors with social distancing. Office work that is not capable of being performed remotely can resume. And in-home services, including housecleaning services, can resume operations.

Subject to local regulation, gyms and fitness centers may conduct outdoor classes, practices, training sessions, or games, provided that coaches, spectators, and participants maintain six feet of distance from one another during these activities. Outdoor pools can also reopen, with restricted capacity. Businesses and activities that necessarily involve close contact and shared surfaces, including gyms, hair salons, indoor theaters, tattoo parlors, casinos, and similar establishments, will remain closed for the time being.

Joining Gov. Whitmer during her press conference today, MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun announced a new MI Symptoms Web Application, which allows Michigan employers and employees to enter information daily to help identify symptoms that might be caused by the virus and to make decisions about when to seek appropriate medical care. Local and state public health will also use the collective data to help identify the potential for new outbreaks of the disease.

"The governor and I, along with a team of experts, have determined that our state is ready to move into the next phase of the MI Safe Start Plan. Hospitalization numbers are down, our frontline workers have PPE to last them several weeks, and the number of positive cases and deaths are declining," said Dr. Khaldun. "We will continue to monitor the data and work closely with local health departments to ensure Michiganders practice safe social distancing. On behalf of our health care professionals and first responders on the front lines, we must all be smart and be safe."

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II also joined the Gov. Whitmer during the press conference.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II speaks during Governor Whitmer's press conference today, June 1. (Photo courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist stressed the importance of peaceful action during this time of a double threat to Black communities: COVID-19 and police brutality.

"The scab covering the wounds of oppression has once again been ripped off," he said. "Please remain vigilant, please practice social distancing and wear your mask if you do choose to demonstrate."

Click here for the Power Point Presentation Gov. Whitmer used today. 

Click here for Executive Order 2020-110.

Click here for an updated list of Gov. Whitmer's Executive Orders. 

Gov. Whitmer calls for unity following President Trump’s call for governors to 'dominate' protesters

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy

LANSING -- Today, June 1, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the following statement after President Trump called for governors to "dominate" protestors:

"Right now our nation is hurting. Americans are in pain, and desperate for leadership from the White House during one of the darkest periods in our lifetimes. This morning I took a few moments to read a powerful essay written by our former president, Barack Obama, about how we can make this moment a turning point for real change in our country. I felt hopeful and inspired in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. Then I joined a call with my fellow governors and the current president that was deeply disturbing. Instead of offering support or leadership to bring down the temperature at protests, President Trump told governors to 'put it down' or we would be 'overridden.' He said governors should 'dominate' protesters, 'or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks.' The president repeatedly and viciously attacked governors, who are doing everything they can to keep the peace while fighting a once-in-a-generation global pandemic.

"The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction. We must reject this way of thinking. This is a moment that calls for empathy, humanity, and unity. This is one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history, but as Americans, we must remember our enemy is racial injustice, not one another. Let us heed the powerful words of President Obama today to 'channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action.' It’s time for all of us to pull together and do the hard work of building a nation that works for everyone."