Demonstrations across the U.S. have emerged as American citizens grow increasingly worried about the financial and economic impact of the social distancing measures their states are imposing.
How we got here: Most U.S. governors have implemented strict social distancing measures and issued stay-at-home orders to hinder the spread of the coronavirus. These methods include closing so-called non-essential businesses which mean many Americans are out of jobs and not receiving paychecks.
Around 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks or one in ten working Americans. The U.S. hasn’t seen such numbers in job losses since 1948 and even then, it took 10 months for unemployment claims to go this high.
The measures are now stretching into their fourth week and some citizens say that leaders have gone too far.
The protests: Last Thursday, about 100 Ohio citizens took to the state’s capitol building in Columbus to express their dissatisfaction with how Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is responding to the coronavirus outbreak. Some of the protesters wore Guy Fawkes masks and held signs that read “Open Ohio,” “Quarantine worse than virus,” and “Social distancing or social conditioning. We do not consent.”
DeWine told citizens that they’ll just have to “hang in there.” He also defended their right to protest his decision, citing the First Amendment.
“The people who are outside have every right to be out there and say what they want to say. We’re not going to keep these orders on one day longer than we have to” but “if we don’t continue to do what we’re doing, it’s going to cost a lot of lives. And, it’s going to delay our ability to economically recover,” he said.
In Wyoming, around 20 citizens met at the Pioneer Park in Casper for a demonstration organized by the Wyoming Campaign for Liberty, which took place after Gov. Mark Gordon extended social distancing measures through the end of the month. The protesters argued that the government shouldn’t tell people how to act.
“I totally believe it’s every individual’s right to decide what’s best for them,” said Cathy Ide a member of the organization in charge of the protest. “I have the right to govern myself; that’s the right that I have. I can stay at home and self-isolate; I can wear a mask; or I can choose to work.”
In North Carolina, demonstrators gathered for a #reopenNC rally, organized by a Facebook group named “Reopen NC,” that has drawn around 27,000 members since last Tuesday. The group says that the state should find a way to isolate those who are sick and let the others go back to work.
“At the point it expires, he does not need to extend it,” said Ashley Smith, one of the ReopenNC’s founders. “He gets out of the way and lets people get back to their lives.”
In Michigan, protesters are expected to gather for “Operation Gridlock” to demonstrate disagreement with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, which prohibits any gathering and tells some business what they can sell. The “drive-in” protest is expected to involve around 15,000 in the state’s capital on Wednesday with the aim of creating gridlock while still adhering to social distancing measures.
Meshawn Maddock, the organization of the protest and a member of the Michigan Conservative Coalition called said the rules are tyrannical.
“Quarantine is when you restrict movement of sick people. Tyranny is when you restrict the movement of healthy people. Every person has learned a harsh lesson about social distancing. We don’t need a nanny state to tell people how to be careful,” she told Fox News.
“The health-care system is basically shut down. People with issues are having trouble seeing a doctor because everyone is focused on the virus. My husband and I are checking in on my in-laws, but even doing that is now breaking the law. The governor is making a criminal out of all of us. People just need to use common sense, we can’t just shut down the entire state,” Maddock said.
Whitmer has repeatedly indicated that she’s sticking to her order.
We are living in a difficult time, & the unknown is scary.
But I do know that we must remain steady. We can’t allow fear or panic to guide us. The lives of Michiganders are at stake. We must stay the course to save lives.
Stay steady. We’re going to get through this together.
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) April 11, 2020
Plans to reopen the economy: President Trump has suggested at the daily White House press briefings in recent days that they’re working on a plan to reignite the economy and send people back to work. Some states on the west and east coasts have agreed to work together to restart the economy in those places.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusets, and Rhode Island announced a regional partnership to reopen their states. The effort includes a task force that would have a health representative for each state.
California, Oregon, and Washington made a similar agreement.
President Trump criticized the states for crafting their own plans and called them “mutineers” in a tweet on Tuesday.
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