by Olivia Garcia
As the number of COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising in the USA with over 5,000 new cases as of recently, the presence of anti-lockdown protesters is concerning but more so confusing.
As an American citizen myself, I understand the sacrifices we are all making that comes from losing our jobs, closing our schools and blocking us from travel. What people do not realize, though, is that we do this because we are trying to prevent the spread of COVID and keep people safe.
Being that this pandemic is only the second time a mass influenza like this has occurred, the decision to halt the lives of all Americans was not a decision the federal government took lightly. It’s naive of me to say that President Trump didn’t understand the severity of the situation, or even that he was naive to the fact that he was effectively closing our economy. Everyone was aware of what could happen with such a drastic shift to the way we live our lives. But it was necessary.
So why are people risking not only their own lives but the lives of others to protest these orders that are in place just to keep them alive?
Let’s start with the facts.
I think it is important to state the symptoms of Coronavirus and these people are potentially risking. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms include but are not limited to cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and chills. The most severe cases may end up hospitalized. There is currently no cure for the coronavirus. Those patients who die in the hospital are alone.
So why across the USA have protesters gathered in large masses (sometimes in the hundreds and thousands) to demand the reopening of the country?
We must first know why people protest. Movements like the Women’s March, Pro-Choice, and Black Lives Matter all are movements that are founded on bringing awareness to these minority groups who have faced oppression continuously since the founding of the United States. Using their legal right to do so under that first amendment in the constitution, groups of minorities have the chance to publicly vocalize their demands peacefully.
With this being said, where do these anti-lockdown protesters fit in?
They don’t. As the majority are white Americans, they are not a minority group. These are not peaceful protests. These protesters are found screaming in the faces of police and bringing semi-automatic weapons into courthouses to “try to prove a point.”
(Protestors gather in a group, obeying social distancing rules by standing closer than six feet and not wearing masks)
On my journey to understand, I started on Facebook. That’s where these protesters were organized so I tried to see if I could get intel from here. Having to first apply to get into these groups, I started with “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine”, “Reopen South Carolina 100%”, “Reopen California”, and “Reopen USA”. Each group asked a question along the lines of “are you against the lockdown and demanding that the country reopen?” Even though I do not agree, I had to answer yes to gain admittance.
Once I joined each group, I surprisingly stumbled upon several welcoming communities. For new members, every week one of the administrators of the group would tag them all in a personalized post to the page. This action was oddly comforting, serving as an introduction to the space they’ve created.
I stumbled upon the Michiganders page first and watched a livestream one of the administrators was doing. They were asking the followers of that account to call into their local capital’s office and demand the reopening of their county. They even knew where the capital was, the number of their county’s representatives, a time they knew they had to call and the exact number of phone calls that were necessary in order to show support for their cause. It was VERY organized. They had links on the stream, people asked questions and knew almost every answer. In all honesty, I was surprised.
After this, I needed to see if anyone would talk to me. Being completely transparent, I introduced myself as a student journalist and hoped to get numerous responses. I messaged over 50 people and only 8 responded and showed interest. When asked for a comment only 3 said yes, and all 3 wished to remain anonymous.
I wanted to know the impacts the virus has had on their communities. All three expressed that effectively everything in their communities had been closed and events had been cancelled. One PhD student in Southern Carolina stated that they had not had “in-person interaction since March” and described their community as being in “critical condition”.
Fortunately, none had lost their jobs and had to file for unemployment. However, one member said that their income was reduced and they could, therefore, no longer apply for “jumbo loans.” When I asked each respondent to elaborate on how the either loss of/reduction of payment had affected them, one protester suggested that they had to start cooking and are unable to make regular food purchases.
When I asked each person if they agreed with the $2 trillion in federal government spending allocated during the pandemic, only one said yes. Their justification was that if states had not enforced lockdown or social distancing, the spending would not have been as severe.
Each respondent showed concern when they learned about the current U.S. debt. All 3 understood very clearly that the only way to repair said debt was to get as many people back to work to start funneling money back into our country.
The final question I asked was regarding the possible second wave of cases these protesters could potentially cause. I brought up the fact that mass media has depicted these protesters as careless to the community and could very well possible be the cause of an increase in cases.
The first respondent simply answered “no.” Their reasoning was that, even with the lockdown, the virus could and would still spread. They said, “There will be no summer respite from the virus. The rate of speed is likely to drop to that of flu outbreaks.”
The second respondent showed more concern regarding feeling silenced or discredited by the media. This respondent does not concern themselves with listening to “experts.” They also stated that “people have antibodies to the virus.” Their final statement was that “even 100,000 protesters is a fraction of the U.S. population and only a small group of them will contract COVID-19 as a result of protesting.”
Finally, the third individual simply responded, “Honestly I don’t think it matters.” They offered no explanation.
When I asked if they were worried for their own safety or the safety of their fellow protesters, the main concern was of arrests, doxxing/employment retaliation, and police brutality.
(protesters stand outside a building holding signs such as those stating “Heil Witmer” with a swastika, as well as a Trump/Pence sign)
Within the USA, we hold our own individual rights and liberties as citizens closer to our hearts than the rights of others. The selfish nature of Americans, such as individual prosperity and unalienable rights, has allowed these racist and harmful protests to occur. The platform that the U.S. has built for the white majority has resulted in a double standard of how a person can act. Let’s be honest, if these protesters were black and not waving large “TRUMP 2020” flags around, the protests would not have happened. We would be seeing graphic images and videos of arrests and tear gas being used on these protesters. We would be mourning over the unnecessary loss of life because police “felt they might have been carrying a weapon.” This situation proves that there is a double standard in this country. This double standard has been present the whole time, especially with the pandemic.
((A comic depicting the difference between white and black persons protesting)
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