Hundreds of faces without masks would be a frightening sight for a lot of people these days, but that is exactly what is happening at demonstrations against the shutdown measures across America.
“We believe that the state governor has gone beyond his constitutional authority in shutting down businesses and ordering people to stay at home,” said Tyler Miller who organized the protest in Washington State.
Following the rapid rise in infection numbers in March, Washington Governor Jay Inslee chose to follow what many world leaders had already done around the world and closing restaurants and bars as well as banning large gatherings. These particular protesters deemed that act unconstitutional.
“The state constitution says that the right of the people to peacefully assemble shall never be abridged. We believe that the (emergency coronavirus) proclamations that the governor here ordered violate that,” Miller said.
“I even self-quarantined for 14 days back at the very beginning of this myself, when I had an illness that mirrored some of the symptoms,” he added.
“The fact I am protesting does not mean I think it is a good idea to have gatherings, I just believe that the government has no authority to prohibit them.”
During the pandemic, Miller has been able to keep working as an engineering technician with the US Navy. He stated that he’s angered by what he feels to be an overreach of power by the governor.
Restrictions vary from state to state, and Washington isn’t the only one with demonstrators.
There has been a similar protest in San Diego on Sunday with the main demand being to “open California”. Beginning Monday, San Diego County is lifting some ocean restrictions, including for swimmers, surfers, paddle-boarders, and kayakers, but boating will remain off-limits while piers, boardwalks, and parking lots at beaches will stay closed.
In Maryland, protesters honked their horns as they drove around the capital, Annapolis, to demand that Governor Larry Hogan “reopen Maryland”.
Similar events have taken place in about 20 states, with attendances differing from a few dozen to thousands of people.
These demonstrations come as the US still hasn’t seen a drop in the numbers of COVID-19 linked deaths. Even politicians are spurring the protesters on.
“The hysteria that surrounded the coronavirus from the beginning was disproportionate,” said Rick Becker, of North Dakota.
“There was an overreaction by state governments with regard to mandatory shutdowns, shelter in place, and so forth,” he said.
He dismissed the notion that tens of thousands of people have already died across the nation and that that number could’ve been high if there were no restrictions.
“That is something that you’re going to be able to say no matter what; that there may have been more deaths,” says Mr Becker, who is also a qualified doctor.
“You’re taking the ‘if it saves just one life’ argument, and I would say that if I would drive 20mph instead of 50mph, it’s possible that I might not kill somebody, and you can look at all aspects of our lives that way. But our whole way of life in this country would collapse and we can’t live life that way.”
In South Dakota, a state representative Bob Glanzer is one of the casualties of the virus.
“He was a very caring, giving, listening type of individual and certainly faith was a big part of his life. He’s going to be sorely missed in the legislature,” said party colleague Jean Hunhoff.
He adds that she and other legislative members respected the social distancing measures despite the fact that their state is one of the few where no stay-at-home order has been imposed.
“I support the decisions of our governor. She laid out guidelines and then really left the decisions up to local communities,” says Jean Hunhoff, who comes from a healthcare background.
“I am a registered nurse and I believe it is data that should drive decision making and I think we have done that here. It is easy to stand on the outside and post judgment.”
Polls show that the majority of US citizens are still in favor of strict measures to slow down the spread of the virus.
Some people at the demonstrations are stating that their reasons are purely monetary, seeing how only workers deemed essential are allowed to work, but there has been a distinct amount of supporters of President Donald Trump, especially in states with ruling Democrats. There have also been chants of “Fire Fauci” directed at Anthony Fauci, the top public health expert on the White House task force.
While he has openly supported these protests with his tweets, Trump also stated that he was “unhappy” when the Republican governor of Georgia Brian Kemp decided to reopen the economy.
President’s mixed messages are putting state governors in difficult positions of figuring out the correct decisions when it comes to keeping people safe. This balancing act of immeasurable potential deaths and the massive economic downturn is not an easy task, especially in these uncertain times.