As the COVID-19 pandemic’s curve flattens in some parts of the world, some Americans feel like the state-by-state stay-at-home orders are overstaying their welcome. Among an unprecedented economic crash, a record number of 50,000 U.S. deaths and an uncertain future, protests have spurred up in multiple U.S. cities in response to the extended local and state government stay-at-home orders. These protests are not only foolish and dangerous to cities who are already relaxing their stay-at-home orders but they also lean on misguided past and present political turmoil to fuel their fight.
Several arguments for why cities should reopen have surfaced, ranging from folks not being able to receive a haircut to cities fearing bankruptcy. The most common and one of the most controversial arguments is that the government-mandated order is unconstitutional because it infringes on the American ideas of liberty and freedom.
These protesters are being described as “modern day Rosa Parks” by Stephen Moore, a conservative economist. What’s troubling about Moore’s comment is the context of his comparison — protests fighting an international public health response being compared to the civil rights movement. A government repression of rights is a government repression of rights, right?
Wrong. Parks’ triumphs were not fueled by the gaslighting of public health mandates. Parks’ struggle was not with a sudden and temporary federal ban on public gatherings. Parks’ triumph was against the gaslighting of African Americans looking for equality. Parks’ struggle was with an established, systematic oppression of African Americans.
Protesters who fought in the civil rights movements were murdered in bombings, tortured by police and beaten by the average white man who didn’t want to change the status quo.
In fact, the African American death toll due to the pandemic is starkly disproportionate to the white death toll. Roughly one-third of the U.S. COVID-19 cases are African American, yet African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population. The comparison of protesters to Parks not only has no historical backing but it also ignores the current situation entirely.
Protesters who are fighting the government stay-at-home order are facing virtually no obstacles despite their illegal gatherings, and are even garnering indirect support from President Donald Trump and direct support from those close to the president. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has claimed that the virus is a ploy to bring down the president. Moore, the presidential economic advisor who made the Parks comment, has decided to assist those who might be arrested and prosecuted for protesting the stay-at-home order. These conflicting views within the federal government itself are not reflective of the political climate that civil rights activists faced in the 60s or today. It’s disrespectful to Parks, and comparing these protests to those of the Civil Rights Movement completely debases the rights that African Americans fought so hard to earn, and still fight for today.
Another misguided fuel to the protesters’ flame is the president’s lack of education and seriousness when addressing the pandemic. Just on Friday, April 24, the president suggested that injecting disinfectants into the bloodstream may fight the virus. After stark criticism, he defended his statement by claiming it was sarcastic.
If the president’s comment was sarcastic, which some believe, it sends a message to the general public that Trump doesn’t care about the stay-at-home measures because he doesn’t care to address measures to protect oneself seriously. If he was serious when he made the address, which others believe, the message speaks waves about the conflicting views within the federal government itself.
Under the weight of unstable federal opinion, mandated stay-at-home orders and frequent protests against said orders, some cities have begun relaxing their stay-at-home policies.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has plans to reopen the city, claiming that the heat of Southern Nevada will protect people from infection. Many protesters counted her statement as a victory against government tyranny, and on Friday, April 24, supported her by driving through the Las Vegas Strip demanding an immediate reopening. The mayor’s claim of heat protecting the city is not based on any conclusive evidence and ignores that Las Vegas is one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations.
Over 3.3 million visitors flocked to the internationally renowned city in February alone, and her approach to the reopening is seeded in an economic turnaround for the city, not a public health turnaround. If people start visiting before the stay-at-home order is lifted, the number of infected could climb to catastrophic proportions.
The stay-at-home protests argue that fundamental rights are being violated, with experts citing Parks and the Civil Rights movement as a parallel, despite an outrageously disproportionate African American death toll and no police shut-downs. The protesters are also fueled by a convoluted set of opinions and facts spewed by government officials on a federal level down to a city level, with the president himself unsure of what side he supports and the Las Vegas mayor dead-set on reopening the city. This metaphorical march upon a field of factual and opinionated turmoil is completely misguided, dangerous and most of all, foolish.
David Andrews is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. He can be reached at email@example.com.