Across the country, groups of Americans take to the streets to protest lock-out orders to limit the spread of Covid-19. Why?
The United States now has more than 761,000 cases and more than 40,000 deaths, and the number continues to increase, although there have been signs that infection rates are slowing in some states.
Some states are starting to ease restrictions, reopen parks, beaches and some small businesses in the coming days, but most of the United States remains in some form of home support.
In more than a dozen states from coast to coast, protesters took to the streets, blocking roads and honking their horns.
Why are they protesting?
Those who take to the streets say that tough measures restricting traffic and businesses unnecessarily harm citizens.
Protesters say the housekeeping measures imposed by state governments to control the spread of Covid-19 are an overreaction.
Some also came with firearms because arms rights groups were among the organizers, alleging violations of civil liberties.
Some also say that maintaining these restrictions for too long will cause long-term damage to local economies.
Last week, the total number of jobless claims in the country reached more than 22 million, reversing decades of job growth in the United States.
Many cite President Trump’s warning that the cure cannot be worse than the disease itself.
But not everyone wants all restrictions to be relaxed immediately: some groups have also called for quarantining only vulnerable people, more testing to get people back to work or redefining “essential” businesses.
Where are these events taking place?
Demonstrations have taken place in more than a dozen states:
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
These states are headed by Republican and Democratic governors.
How many people protest?
The size of protests has varied across the country – from a few dozen protesters in Virginia and Oregon to rallies of thousands in Michigan and Washington.
Washington State attended one of the largest protests on Sunday, with some 2,500 protesters gathered in the capital, Olympia. The state was the first epicenter of the United States’ Covid-19 epidemic.
In Colorado, hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters encountered a counter demonstration by a few health professionals who, dressed in maquis, blocked traffic at a crossroads.
Hundreds of Arizona have taken their cars to create a dead end around the Capitol building in Phoenix. Idaho, Maryland, Texas and Indiana have seen similar gatherings of hundreds of people.
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Who are the protesters?
The organizers of these protests were largely conservative, pro-Trump and pro-arms activists. The US media has described many of these protests as reminiscent of the events of the Trump campaign, with banners, t-shirts and pro-Trump posters.
Freedom-seeking signs of tyranny were also a basic element of these protests. Governors have been compared to kings or dictators. “Give me freedom or give me death”, a quote recalling the American Revolution was also a popular mantra.
Not all participants are affiliated with organizations – many are simply frustrated by the lockdown that throttles their ability to make a living.
But far-right groups and militias have also made their presence known during certain protests.
The rally outside the state capital in Austin, Texas, was fueled in part by fans of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was seen shaking hands with protesters. Amid the chants of “let’s work”, calls to “fire” [Dr Anthony] Fauci, “the US infectious disease leader of the White House task force, reported the New York Times.
As John Roland, an Illinois militia leader, told the BBC, “Reopen my state or we will reopen it ourselves.” “
What did Trump say?
President Donald Trump and his White House have expressed seemingly opposite views on the protests.
Last week, Mr. Trump and his Covid-19 task force released new directions to begin reopening state economies.
These guidelines recommend three phases of gradual relaxation of restrictions on business and social life, each phase lasting at least two weeks. The recommendations also include maintaining a certain social distance, access to tests and contact tracing.
But one day after the administration’s plan was announced, the president tweeted the slogans of “Liberation” protests in several democratic states.
On Sunday, the president again offered a contradictory message, telling reporters “that some governors have gone too far,” and then called specifically Michigan and Virginia.
“Some of the things that have happened may not be as appropriate,” said Trump. “In the end, it will not matter because we are starting to open up our states. And I think they will open very well. “
Among the protesters, Mr. Trump said, “Their lives have been taken away from them. “
“These people love our country, they want to go back to work. “
What is the reaction?
While these protests may illustrate the concerns of some Americans, especially those in rural parts of the country, they do not reflect global public opinion.
A Pew Research Center poll last week found that 66% of Americans fear the restrictions will be lifted too quickly, compared to 32% who fear they won’t be lifted soon enough. In addition, the survey found that most of the country – regardless of party affiliation – believes the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.
US public health experts and many heads of state continued to stress the importance of social isolation, justifying the actions taken by the protesters.
Facebook announced on Monday that it would delete the event listings for the anti-lockdown protests in California, New Jersey and Nebraska as they violate orders from the state government.
State governors also responded to protesters and apparent support for Trump.
Jay Inslee, a Washington state democrat, said the president “fomented inner rebellion.”
Republican governor Larry Hogan of Maryland also spoke, telling CNN, “I don’t think it helps to encourage protests and encourage people to go against the president’s own policy . “