In a growing number of states across the country, at least 10 so far, crowds of Americans are peacefully gathering to protest lockdown measures that have upended nearly every aspect of their day-to-day lives.
As the countrys unemployment rate continues to soar, tensions that were already high are boiling over, as a once-vibrant economy has been brought to a standstill by measures to stop the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
Governors across the nation have enacted strict stay-at-home measures and have ordered schools and some businesses to close in a bid to counter the spread of the virus—and it appears to be working. At the same time, complaints of draconian measures and reports of incidents reminiscent of a “police state” are on the rise.
Interviews with more than a dozen people, from diverse backgrounds, say the situation is complex and warrants a multifaceted approach. Some, including demonstrators and constitutional experts, argue the lockdown measures are too harsh and unnecessary for those living in rural areas. Others, meanwhile, strongly support the current actions, saying they are critical to saving lives.
A key concern fueling the resentment is that the measures imposed are placing the nation on a slippery slope with regard to infringement upon citizens basic freedoms and constitutional rights, and that some form of sensible, targeted reopening is warranted in certain parts of states.
In recent weeks, an uptick of what protesters have called tyrannical acts—the $1,000 fining of a lone surfer in a California beach, a ban on selling seeds, soil, and plants in Michigan, the arrest of a Louisiana pastor for holding church services, the New York City mayor urging residents to report those violating rules, and the floating of a ban on gun sales in New Orleans—have sparked a different kind of fear.
While some states have decided to extend their lockdowns into the coming months, at least 20 states are planning to reopen their economies “in the very near future,” according to President Donald Trump. Recently, there have been protests in Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Utah, Washington state, Maine, and New Jersey.
We Lost Our Rights
John Beaulieu had never joined a protest before. The 50-year-old from Androscoggin County, Maine, said he felt compelled to do something after a letter by the Lewiston, Maine, Police Department warned that those violating the emergency order “shall be issued a criminal summons or arrested.”
“I did not want to go protest. I actually had to convince myself that I had to go,” he told The Epoch Times. “This is just a violation of everything that is American. This isnt China—we dont do this.”
After searching on Facebook, Beaulieu found state Rep. Chris Johansen, a Republican, was organizing a “Re-open Maine” event where those attending were asked to maintain social distancing and to wear protective masks. Beaulieu attended the April 20 protest in Augusta among roughly a few hundred others.
Meanwhile, Facebook has begun banning pages used to organize anti-lockdown protests.
On March 31, Maine Gov. Janet Mills issued a stay-at-home order for all residents and visitors; businesses deemed “nonessential” were also ordered to close. As of April 22, there were 888 cases of the CCP virus in the state and 36 deaths.
“They declared this crisis and we lost our rights overnight,” Beaulieu said. “Obviously, I believe we are going to get back to being normal.”
But Beaulieu said he started to feel a fear that hes never felt before, and it wasnt because of the virus.
“This is never going to sound good, but after this has happened I want to go buy a gun and protect my home because I saw how quickly everything changed overnight,” he said. “I feel threatened by my own government. … Maine is one of the least populated states in the country, we shouldnt have shut down.”
Meanwhile, a thousand miles away, a similar sentiment is brewing.
On April 15, thousands in Michigan took part in the “Operation Gridlock” protest organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and Michigan Freedom Fund. Those attending were told to stay in their vehicles and to circle the Michigan Capitol Building.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has expanded stay-at-home restrictions in the state, including banning lawn and landscaping services, motor boating, and golf. In addition, large stores cant sell paint, furniture, or garden equipment; long drives are prohibited unless deemed “critical”; and people cant even travel to vacation or second homes. She said on April 21 that some form of stay-at-home restrictions will continue beyond May 1.
Meshawn Maddock, co-founder of the Michigan Conservative Coalition and one of the organizers of Operation Gridlock, told The Epoch Times that before planning the demonstration, the organizers were fielding countless phone calls and emails from people who were “absolutely terrified.”
“Their life savings are being dwindled away,” she said. “Theyre shuttering their businesses and are not allowed to work. … We felt like we needed to give them some way of releasing that tension.”
Maddock criticized the governors extensive restrictions, adding that residents are starting to feel more like they are under house arrest than in quarantine and many feel like they are “being punished.”
While some are rightfully afraid of the disease that has ground the world to a near-halt, she also said people are afraid of leaders behaving tyrannically.
The daily numbers of those infected with or dying from COVID-19 in Michigan are less than 10 percent of the dire predictions that estimated more than 2,000 people perishing per day, Maddock said. She says she doesnt believe the disparity is attributable to the shutdown measures, but more that the estimates were “way off.”
According to the latest government data, there have been more than 32,000 cases of the virus in Michigan and 2,700 deaths.
“[Whitmer] wants people to plow through their life savings so that were more dependent on the governor, and were more dependent on government,” Maddock said.
Maddock stressed that their protests arent advocating for a total reopening for the economy, but for the governor to safely get some people back to work immediately and to lift some of the “ridiculous restrictions.”
“There are counties in Michigan that have no COVID-19 cases, and probably never will,” Maddock said. “And theyre still suffering the same arbitrary orders. Thats ridiculous.”
As of April 22, there are over 819,000 confirmed cases of the virus across the United States, as well as 45,356 deaths attributed to the disease. More than 83,000 have reportedly recovered.
David Campbell, vice chairman of the Effingham County, Illinois, Board, attributed the growing anti-lockdown sentiment to a lack of common sense being exercised by some governors. He said some are trying to make blanket rules and apply them equally to everyone in the state.
“This simply does not work effectively,” he told The Epoch Times. “While most people can certainly understand the need for continued restrictions … in the more rural areas, the majority of people think these are over-the-top and burdensome restrictions that are crippling our economy.”
People should return to work sooner, rather than later, for the sake of peoples livelihoods, said Campbell, whos concerned that some of the restrictions are going to stick around “longer than a virus will.”
Mark Tulay, a small-business owner from Virginia, told The Epoch Times via email he fears the protests will likely intensify in the coming weeks, as the lockdown takes a larger toll on peoples health and well-being.
When the CCP virus first started to spread in the United States, people were more tolerant of stringent lockdown measures, in order to buy time for medical and government leaders to figure out solutions. But in recent weeks, the United States has learned much.
“Based on what we now know today, the lockdown measures, let alone the arrests and fines, are both unlawful and inappropriate,” Matt C. Pinsker, an attorney and constitutional law professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, told The Epoch Times.
For low-risk persons, its difficult to justify the limiting of rights, he said, describing some local authorities as becoming “petty tyrants” in implementing measures that deprive the liberties of people, but have no rational connection to stopping the virus.
Pinsker pointed to recent cases, including a ban on drive-in church services enacted by Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat. A Louisville church later sued the city and a federal judge ruled against the mayor enacting any future bans.