Abigail Censky | Michigan Radio

Abigail Censky

Abigail Censky is the Politics & Government reporter at WKAR. She started in December 2018.

Abigail Censky / WKAR

Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris stopped in Michigan on Tuesday for the first time after she was added to the ticket.

To soundtrack of Motown, Lizzo and Mary J. Blige, Harris traveled from Flint to Detroit, campaigning less than 45 days ahead of the presidential election.

Outside of the Detroit Pistons’ practice facility, Harris talked about her reason for returning to the state.

“To be here and to be present. You know, Jill Biden was here last week, Joe was here the week before. We will keep coming back because so goes Michigan, so goes the rest of the country as far as we’re concerned,” she said.

Abigail Censky / WKAR

Protesters gathered on the Michigan state Capitol lawn Friday to plead for the governor or the Michigan High School Athletic Association to bring back high school football this fall.

Families and players decked out in high school spirit wear and football jerseys chanted, “Let us play” and held signs that said “Don’t Dim Our Friday Night Lights.”

They were protesting MHSSA’s announcement that the fall season would move to spring because of the high-risk categorization of the sport for its potential to spread COVID-19 due to high player-to-player contact.

governor gretchen whitmer standing at a podium

Though coronavirus cases in the state appear to be plateauing, Michigan is still under a state of emergency.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says as cases continue to decline in the state, businesses may be allowed to reopen based on the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

But the state of emergency will likely remain in place.

Gretchen Whitmer

During the opening night of the virtual Democratic National Convention, Governor Gretchen Whitmer hammered President Donald Trump for what she called a weak coronavirus response.

Governor Whitmer’s short speech followed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; both are considered leaders by many for their actions in states hit hard by the coronavirus early on.

She said many lives were saved in Michigan as she made an elevator pitch for the Democratic ticket, contrasting the Democrats’ approach with the President’s.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Police departments across the country already submit use of force reports to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Now, departments in Michigan will be encouraged to submit reports for state-specific data.

The Law Enforcement Transparency Collaborative, announced Wednesday, will be the first statewide collection of use of force data.


“Black Lives Matter” boomed from loudspeakers, echoing across the lawn of the Michigan State Capitol at the NAACP’s “We Are Done Dying March.”

Wednesday’s march was the latest in Lansing as part of a nationwide swell of protests for Black lives and against police brutality in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

The country is now in its third week of demonstrations, drawing out some who have never protested before and others who’ve spent a lifetime calling for justice. Below are some of their stories.

Brandi Whitted & Areeona Clark

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people marched from the Lansing Center to the state Capitol on Wednesday as part of a march against police brutality.

The words "Black Lives Matter" echoed across the Capitol lawn at the NAACP’s “We are Done Dying” march.

Nathanael Jefferson has been to several protests in Detroit and Lansing. He says he has personally been profiled in Lansing and sees police profiling all the time.

Protesters have staged nightly protests in Lansing against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. Now, those protests have turned into calls to defund the Lansing Police and for Mayor Andy Schor to resign.
Abigail Censky / WKAR

More than one hundred protesters gathered on the state capitol steps Sunday marking a week of protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man, by a white police officer.

protesters in front of state capitol
Abigail Censky / WKAR

This post was last updated Sunday, May 31st at 11:10 p.m.

Hundreds gathered at the Michigan State Capitol Sunday to protest the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who was killed after White Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for minutes.

Updated at 12:09 p.m. ET

Despite heavy rain, armed protesters gathered Thursday at the State Capitol in Michigan in what the organizing group, Michigan United for Liberty, has branded "judgment day."

This was the third planned demonstration since Michigan has been under a stay-at-home-order from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

joneigh khaldun at a press conference

The New York Times reported Michiganders are no longer staying at home in the same numbers, despite still being under a stay-at-home order. Governor Gretchen Whitmer called the data concerning.

In her Wednesday briefing Whitmer said movement itself isn’t the problem, so long as people still wear their masks outside and follow social distancing and handwashing.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

After easing restrictions for industries like landscaping and construction over the past two weeks, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced today in a press briefing that the state will need to have a waiting period before making decisions about other industries going back to work.

Governor Whitmer announced last week construction could begin again on May 7. She says now the state will study if cases of COVID-19 begin to increase again when some sectors of the economy return to work.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

After extending the state of emergency through late May without legislative approval, Governor Gretchen Whitmer condemned actions by lawmakers and protesters on Thursday.

Gov. Whitmer called Thursday’s protest, which drew hundreds to the capitol, political theater.

protesters with guns in michigan state capitol
Courtesy Senator Dayna Polehanki / Twitter

Hundreds of protesters flocked to the Capitol lawn for the second time in weeks to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.

The protest was much smaller than the first protest, "Operation Gridlock," two weeks ago, but still attracted hundreds who didn’t observe social distancing or wear face masks.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says it’s time to start re-engaging Michigan’s economy as the COVID-19 outbreak is plateauing in the state.

Following her decision to allow landscapers to get back to work last week, the governor says construction and outdoor businesses will likely be next. The governor says she’s loosening restrictions on commercial and residential construction.

Gretchen Whitmer
State of Michigan

Lawmakers returned to Lansing Friday for an unexpected special session.

Legislators wore homemade masks, and went through temperature screening before entering the capitol for the second time under the stay-at-home order.

The Republican majority called legislators back to create an oversight committee on pandemic response and vote on bills to curb the governor’s emergency powers.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

In a Wednesday briefing, Governor Whitmer said there will likely be a short-term extension of the stay-at-home order in Michigan.

“There will be some kind of a stay at home order in effect for a long-time here. And I know when I say that, people will speculate ‘What does that mean?’ And what it simply means is that for the near future we know that it’s not going to be safe for especially the vulnerable population to be out and about publicly.”

Several thousand cars flooded the streets around the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Wednesday to protest the governor's extended stay-at-home order. Cars jammed the streets around the Capitol building, filling the air with a cacophony of honking. People draped in American and "Don't Tread on Me" flags blared "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "God Bless The USA" out of car stereos.

Protesters at the Michigan Capitol
Abigail Censky / WKAR

Several thousand cars surrounded the Michigan Capitol grounds for blocks as far as the eye could see Wednesday in a display so densely packed, one ambulance slowed to a crawl to get through. Some drivers laid on their horns, while some spilled out onto the sidewalks. At least 200 people left their cars and clustered at the front of the Capitol, not observing social distancing or wearing masks.  

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More than a million Michiganders, or more than a quarter of the state’s workforce, have applied for unemployment during the coronavirus outbreak.

Jeff Donofrio is the director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. He says while the state isn’t unique, Michigan has seen some of the biggest surges in unemployment applications.

profile shot of Gretchen Whitmer
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer spent much of her Monday briefing on the coronavirus outbreak defending the extension of the stay at home order.

Last week the Governor extended the stay-at-home order through the end of April. The move was called for by the state’s health officials, but harshly criticized by Republican leadership in the state legislature.

coronavirus symptoms sheet
Adobe Stock

As Michigan nears the predicted apex of the coronavirus pandemic, some areas of the state have faired far better than hard-hit Southeast Michigan and Detroit. But the whole state won’t peak at the same time. For outstate areas like Ingham County—with 254 cases and a population of more than 290,000 –it’s virtually impossible to predict when cases of COVID-19 will peak, and how long life here may be disrupted.

different types of face masks laying on a table

The state of Michigan now has more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19. But there's not enough personal protective equipment to last through the week at several hospitals in Southeast Michigan.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the state is dangerously low on equipment to protect healthcare workers.

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Less than a week ahead of the Michigan presidential primary, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is warning results may come late.

She says there’s been an 80% increase in absentee ballots.

Bloomberg will officially be on ballots across the country for Super Tuesday, the first time he's appeared on a ballot alongside other Democratic frontrunners. He's betting heavily on a good Super Tuesday showing to transfer into wins the next week.
Maxim Jenkins / WKAR

While some of the biggest names in the race to become the democratic presidential nominee dropped out ahead of Super Tuesday, one candidate’s big gamble doesn’t start until today.

Mike Bloomberg has spent a huge amount of money in Michigan ahead of the state’s primary next week, and he’s hoping the payoff could be a share of the state’s 147 delegates.

absentee ballot
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

2020 is the first presidential election year Michigan voters will have access to no-reason absentee voting, and election clerks are expecting a surge in absentee ballots. A set of bills passed out of the state Senate Elections Committee Thursday will allow clerks to remove ballots from the mailing envelope, but not the secrecy sleeve the day before the election.

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher / WDET

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is seeking $3.5 billion in new bonds to fix crumbling roads and bridges. She unveiled the plan in her second State of the State speech Wednesday evening. She said this is her “Plan B” after Republicans rejected her proposal for a 45-cent fuel tax increase last year.

“So from now on, when you see orange barrels on a state road, slow down, and know that it’s this administration fixing the damn roads,” Whitmer said.

The new plan doesn’t require the Republican-led Legislature to sign off.

Hands gripping jail cell bars

A special task force on jails and pretrial incarceration handed over 18 policy recommendations Tuesday to leadership in the state Legislature.

Members of the Michigan State University marching band are braving below freezing temperatures to take part in "Sparty Watch" — a more than 50-year-old protection scheme devised to fend off attacks on MSU's beloved mascot, The Spartan, in advance of their rivalry football game on Saturday.

It's 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and 22 degrees. Twenty members of the MSU marching band and color guard are huddled outside in the snow flanking the 9-foot bronze statue.