Protests sprang up in over a dozen separate States across the county opposing the mandated lockdown orders over the past weekend. The groups assembled waiving American flags and carrying signs that vented their frustrations with their State’s Governors. Many argue that their rights are being stepped on and the lockdown is unconstitutional. The economic downturn has put many private business owners in an unforeseeable predicament that many may never recover from. This frustration along with the simple things we have all been deprived of has created dissent and it materialized in the form of these “liberation” rallies. Law enforcement has allowed these protests to assemble keeping their constitutional rights intact as long as the protesters adhered to the social distancing regulations which they did not. In some states the orders have been harsher and more ambiguous than others but are these demonstrators “patriots” or “fools”?
I have separated this group in into two different categories as people who feel that their rights are infringed and those who believe that the economic downturn is far worse than the virus. One of the biggest arguments of dissenters has been that the lockdown has prohibited their first amendment right to assembly. Many of these demonstrations have been organized by Second Amendment rights groups that have used this opportunity to brandish weapons in obvious intimidation tactics chanting “give me Liberty or give me death” to outline their motives plainly. In states like Kentucky the Governor has received outright death threats and similar language has been used in other states. False information has been another obstacle for all people trying to understand who to believe and what to believe since Covid-19 is new as well as not currently understood. It is also important to point out the how Facebook groups have now been weaponized as a tool helping the protesters recruit likeminded people across the country and create confirmation bias through the confusion.
The other category I discussed are people who want to go back to work and believe that it is up to the personal responsibility of each private citizen to choose whether they need to adhere to these temporary mandates. Some business owners that are in industries deemed “non essential” have argued that many of their professions should be able to continue dealings because of their ability to follow social distancing guidelines. People have been photographed holding signs saying “I need a haircut”, “Let my people GO-LF” (below), “My Body, My Choice”, are the oddities of the group who neither have a point nor logic working their favor. It is hard to know if they are trolls or truly that lost in misinformation. President Trump has allowed each State to act autonomously which has left some states more bitter than others due to the possible overstepping of quarantine orders in specific instances most publicized in Michigan and Virginia.
Health experts as well as Constitutional Law Professors have agreed in majority that the current restrictions are necessary and within the state’s emergency powers. “A pandemic gives states a compelling state purpose in the imposition of restrictions,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. Neal Devins, a constitutional law professor at William & Mary stated “It may raise an issue of freedom of assembly or some other constitutional right but so long as the government has compelling justification and no better alternative… the government can place limits on rights.” It is also interesting that The 10th Amendment allows state to establish and enforce laws that are meant for the wellbeing and safety of the public which has been used to ague for these same types of lockdowns in the Supreme Court over 200 years ago when health epidemics were much more common.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that relieving the restrictions too early could be far more detrimental to the economy by prolonging its recovery. Fauci has been advising the White House since the beginning of this pandemic and it seems at times that him and the Present have separate schools of thought when it comes to the duration of how long these restrictions could last.
The underlying themes to this pandemic have been uncertainty and the loss of control in our personal lives. Some have been able to adjust while others have revealed their inability to conform to their temporary new normal. I can see the protester’s point of view on only the surface level because I too am frustrated, angry, and want this to be over but this is a real world changing event that gravely endangers the public wellbeing. In wartime and in emergency the government has safeguarded itself within the constitution to have the ability to protect the many from the ignorance of few. This reminds me of the fear that followed 9/11, our world changed one fatal morning and this was the catalyst to new laws that temporarily imposed on our rights to privacy that have been rolled back since. Each of us have been dealt an unchangeable hand and have the responsibility to adhere to these restrictions for not only the greater good of our country and democracy but also the greater good.
All Images were provided by Andy Coronado at @thetravelerclub