What is Behind the Anti-Lockdown Protests in the United States?
The United States remains one of the countries hit worst by COVID-19. Nevertheless, there are still massive protests against the lockdown and company closings – and these are increasing in numbers. Many believe the measures to be un-American, while others are simply afraid of personal ruin.
Americans are Losing Patience
Citizens are increasingly revolting against the lockdown all over the country. They march in front of town halls, parliaments and courts. After weeks of standstill and financial losses, many have lost patience. Approximately 95 percent of Americans still live under lockdown restrictions, although many states are now seeking to gradually reopen. Every fourth company in the country is still closed.
Demonstrators called for COVID-19 protection measures to be lifted and took to the streets again last weekend. Madison, for example, the capital of the state of Wisconsin, experienced its biggest protest to date on Friday. The protests were encouraged by President Donald Trump himself, who called on Twitter to “liberate” states.
Around 1,500 people gathered in front of the Capitol. It was a diverse group that seemed to unite around a certain ideology. Thus one saw Trump flags and caps, the MAGA movement, and symbols of the right-wing conservative tea party movement. No matter the state, claims among the demonstrators range from COVID-19 was “only “the flu to “state tyranny” to “the virus has not spread here.”
Are the Protesters Right About COVID-19?
The numbers speak a different language than the protester rhetoric, even in Wisconsin. The local health authority in Wisconsin announced 304 new cases on Friday, the highest since the pandemic began. To date, over 4,600 people have tested positive in the state, which is home to just under six million people, and 242 have died, most of them in Milwaukee, which is why many people in the countryside feel less threatened and some are unwilling to do their part to contain the pandemic.
Meanwhile, more details have been released about the organizers and supporters of the protests. The Convention of States, one of the groups that have organized and planned the latest protest in Madison, is by no means a grassroots initiative by spontaneously aroused citizens. Instead, a wide-ranging network of right-wing and conservative groups to make political use of the current crisis is in charge. The group has been around since 2015, and it started with a considerable donation from billionaire and Republican Robert Mercer, who also supported Trump’s presidential campaign.
Governors Supporting the Push to Reopen Soon
One of the protesters’ supporters is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is attracting attention as he seeks to reopen his state rather quickly. Beaches have reopened in Florida, and most stores and restaurants will soon be serving customers again. Other Republican states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee are following a similar path.
The demonstrations have many points of contact with other right-wing conservative agitation fields, such as protests against climate protection or more arms control. Many people who took to the streets against the protective measures shared their aversion to state regulations. Many of the protesters were merely afraid of ruin, given the 30 million unemployed. Others could not trust the government unconditionally because it would ultimately go against America’s doctrine of liberty.
However, the widespread but small-scale protests have received a disproportionate amount of public attention in the past few days, which is a success for the organizers. After all, they want to give the impression that many Americans are rebelling against restrictions in trade and industry, which, looking at the figures, is not the case. The American media on both sides of the aisle has played its role in hyping the occurrences inappropriately.
A Fair Response to the Protests
However, instead of scandalizing the situation and putting all of the protesters into Trump’s “basket of deplorables,” attention should be devoted to justified concerns of many Americans. After all, the lockdown has made an unprecedented impact. Thirty million people have lost their jobs in the past six weeks. America has never seen anything like it. Not in the 2008 financial crisis, not even during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And it hits the small companies hardest. Almost every second of them, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says, is struggling to survive. It is dramatic, these companies are at the heart of the economy, employing 120 million people, roughly half of those who can work.
As is so often the case, it is too easy to dismiss all demonstrators as right-wing lunatics. These are undoubtedly present and recognizable via the universal IQ test statement of “COVID-19 is a flu, but above .all above all, people who were not among the economically strong in society before the pandemic now face ruin in many places and their fear is understandable and should be met with a reasoned and considerate response.