By Jon King /

A local congressional candidate is denying allegations that key members of his campaign were involved in organizing one of the first lockdown protests in Lansing, an event he portrayed as a grassroots campaign that he was simply supporting.

In an article published last week, the fact-checking website claims that Cindi Holland, who serves as the manager for Howell Republican Mike Detmer’s campaign for the 8th District GOP nomination, and Londa Gatt, the Detmer campaign’s grassroots director, heavily promoted the April 15th Operation Gridlock protest in Lansing. Several thousand people jammed the streets around the capitol building during the event, including Detmer and members of his campaign, who caravanned from Howell earlier that day. Detmer’s participation in the protest gained notoriety when a selfie he took of the group showed a member of the Proud Boys flashing a recognized white power symbol. Detmer claimed the Proud Boys member had photo-bombed the picture, but later posted tenets of the group on his Facebook page.

Snopes said it created a database of information on nearly 1,000 separate instances in which a Facebook account shared a lockdown-protest event page to a Facebook group during the month of April, including Operation Gridlock. Using the data, it identified what it called “boosters” which they defined as an account that shared the same event to at least four groups separated by no more than 60 seconds. Both Holland and Gatt were included in the “booster” group, as was Rob Cortis, the Livingston County-based owner of the Trump Unity Bridge, which has garnered publicity at Trump campaign events, as well as many of the lockdown protests. Snopes reported that all three have connections through various groups, including the Michigan Conservative Coalition, to the family of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Because the MCC is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, it does not have to disclose its donors, making it difficult to determine exactly who is associated with it. What is known is that the coalition was co-founded by the Chair of the 11th District Republican Party, Meshawn Maddock, and her husband, 44th District Republican State Rep. Matt Maddock. The Michigan Conservative Coalition was also the primary sponsor of the Operation Gridlock protest.

When contacted about the Snopes analytics that indicated his campaign leaders were involved in not only heavily promoting the April 15th protest, but also organizing it, Detmer did not offer anything to refute the data, but instead dismissed the entire premise of the article. “It appears that Snopes or whomever wrote the article has attempted to commingle facts and create some connections that don't exist. They also stated that I'm running for US Senate and I'm not.”

The Snopes article does erroneously state that Detmer is campaigning for senate, when in fact he is running for Congress.

As to the reported links between his campaign and the protest organizers, Detmer said, “…the rally organizers that I work with along with Londa Gatt have nothing to do with the Maddocks, DeVoss or the Michigan Conservative Coalition for which I am also NOT a member.”

“Many people promoted Operation Gridlock. I certainly shared the info across social media. However, I spent no money doing so. I was also part of a caravan traveling from Livingston County to Lansing to be a part of it as you know. However, neither myself, Londa Gatt nor Cindi Holland had any involvement with the organizers of that event, nor have any connections or ties to any organizers of that event nor spent any money for that particular event.”

The Snopes investigation concludes that while the lockdown protests, like Operation Gridlock, were mainly attended by people with, “a genuine frustration at the stay-at-home measures and a fear of economic uncertainty” they have benefited from a political action infrastructure whose methods, “have apparently created the perception of widespread discontent with public health measures largely supported by the American populace.” In fact, recent polling suggests that most people disapprove of the protests, while those in Michigan are generally supportive of the stay-at-home measures.