The vast majority of the U.S. is on lockdown. Even in states that don’t have stay-at-home orders – few as they are – the governors have closed schools and any businesses that didn’t meet whatever criteria they decided on for the essential list. President Trump has called for the reopening of America, but ultimately it falls to the governors in each state to lift the restrictions – and many are extending them instead. How much longer will people suffer the state-imposed quarantine? Apparently not long. Protests have already begun across the nation and more are planned.
Protesters gathered at Huntington Beach April 17 in a demonstration against the state’s stay-at-home order. Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed his six-point plan for lifting the order, which includes testing, tracking, and isolation. He and the governors of Washington and Oregon have announced a pact to coordinate the loosening of restrictions, but Newsom reminds folks that the stay-at-home order is in effect until he says otherwise.
A group called “Liberate Minnesota” took their grievance directly to the governor’s house. Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of Gov. Tim Walz’s residence April 17, and demanded the reopening of businesses, lest “the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Minnesota citizens and their families” be destroyed. President Trump tweeted a brief message, which simply read “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” It was either support for the protesters or a call for the governor to release the extreme restrictions and let people get back to their lives. This after a Wednesday, April 15 announcement by Gov. Walz that the stay-at-home order and the restaurant and bar closures, initially scheduled to end April 10, would continue until May 4. Demonstrators honked their car horns and waved flags with messages like “Stop the Shutdown,” “We do not consent,” and “Walz is the virus.”
This protest appears to have had some success, as Walz signed an executive order Friday allowing residents to golf, boat, fish, hunt, and hike so long as they maintain six feet of social distancing and don’t form crowds. This means, of course, that many businesses across the state can reopen beginning Saturday, April 18 – returning many employees to work.
While demonstrations appear to have worked in Minnesota, they backfired in Michigan. On April 15, thousands clogged the streets of Lansing near the Capitol in a protest called “Operation Gridlock.” Most stayed in their cars, honking and holding signs, but many did not. Quite a few irate residents armed with rifles and pistols – but not masks or gloves – congregated on the Capitol steps. The armed component of the protest drew condemnation from some who stayed in their vehicles, but it also delivered a message: The people are tired of government overreach and are prepared to take real action.
President Trump let fly a “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” tweet as well Friday, April 17, and has been accused of fomenting political violence and open insurrection. Of course, that’s an interesting response from Democrats, given the many calls for violence against both the president and his supporters.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responded to the protest by acknowledging the right to protest – and threatened to extend the stay-at-home order because of the “sad irony” that the failure of demonstrators to social distance worsening the risk of infection.
All told, as many as 4,000 people attended the event, no one was hurt, and only one person was arrested.
A group called “ReOpen Virginia, End The Lockdown VA and Virginians Against Excessive Quarantine” – henceforth called ReOpen VA for the sake of brevity – organized a protest in Richmond, VA April 16. The group who showed up to the demonstration was said to be smaller than what ReOpen VA had expected, but still large enough that police were forced to shut down Capitol Square, as it violated the executive order that forbids more than ten people gathering who don’t practice social distancing.
“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close, is called tyranny,” ReOpen VA said in a press release.
The previous day, Gov. Ralph Northam – who managed to sign several gun control bills into law during the quarantine as well – extended the business closures from April 23 to at least May 8. The stay-at-home order was originally set for – and remains at – June 10. Virginia was the third state to receive a Trump “LIBERATE” tweet Friday, but the president went into more detail, calling on residents to liberate themselves from the lockdown and the restrictive gun laws.
About 100 demonstrators disrupted Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s Wednesday pandemic update. They chanted, blew horns, and shouted through a megaphone outside the windows of the briefing room, demanding he open Kentucky for business.
The governor addressed the protest during his update. “We do have some folks up in here in Kentucky today – and everybody should be able to express their opinion – that believe we should reopen Kentucky immediately, right now,” Beshear said. “Folks, that would kill people. That would absolutely kill people.”
Protesters gathered around the Ohio Statehouse during Gov. Mike DeWine’s April 13 appearance, demanding an end to the stay-at-home order. One demonstrator questioned if DeWine was a real Republican, asking, “Don’t he believe in less government? Small government?” The order is set to expire May 1, but it seems likely that schools will remain closed.
More than 100 people gathered in downtown Raleigh April 14 to protest Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order. The executive order that enforces social distancing with a fine is set to expire April 29 but may be extended. One protester was arrested after Raleigh Police announced that protesting was not an essential activity. So much for the First Amendment in North Carolina, it seems.
More to Come?
No one wants to catch or spread COVID-19, but many are beginning to wonder if the so-called cure has turned out to be worse than the disease. Americans have been forced out of their jobs and the bills are piling up. While the CARES Act provided paycheck protection and disaster loans to small businesses, that money is gone, and Congress can’t seem to agree on another bill.
These protests are likely only the beginning if the lockdown isn’t over soon. With some governors responding to the protests by doubling down on restrictions rather than easing them, will we seem more severe protests soon? How will these governors fare come election day?
Read more from James Fite.
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