White House Advisor Stephen Moore says anti-lockdown protesters are 'modern-day Rosa Parks', sparks outrage
People have been taking to the streets to protest against the stay-at-home orders imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and President Trumps's adviser has linked them to 1950s activist, Rosa Parks.
The protesters gathered across the country this week, despite the social-distancing guidelines, to express their disapproval at the stay-at-home orders and the national lockdown collectively conveying that the economy shall be reopened. At least six states experienced protest rallies and there are about four more planned in the upcoming days, per Daily Mail.
On April 17, President Trump fired off a series of tweets encouraging protesters in Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia who violated the lockdown guidelines to object Democratic governors. "LIBERATE MINNESOTA," President Trump tweeted. "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" he followed the first tweet. "LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!"
Meanwhile, White House advisor and conservative economic commentator, Stephen Moore, referred to these protesters, comprising mostly of white populace, to 'modern-day Rosa Parks' who championed the battle against racial inequality. Moore was a recent addition to the White House task force and is also a part of a coalition of conservative leaders called 'Save Our Country', that works against business shutdowns and the safety measures imposed to stem the pandemic.
He was assigned to help look into ways to reopen the country's economy after a little over a month of national lockdown. He also dropped out of being considered to serve on the Federal Reserve Board last year, as concerns about his qualifications arose.
Moore's comment led to increasing opposition based on certain controversial comments about race and gender as well.
Moore praised the protesters (comprising Trump-supporters) who gathered across various cities to oppose the social distancing guidelines that were imposed to protect the public from the deadly virus. The protesters have been rallying against the lockdown policies that have asked for non-essential businesses and schools to remain shut, restaurants to limit their takeaway services and people to self-isolate in their homes, except in case of emergencies.
Their arguments in favor of the rally are that the nation has sacrificed the economy, unemployment levels have drastically risen and people's lives have been disrupted by something that many don't even consider as an existential threat. "I think there's a boiling point that has been reached and exceeded," Moore told the Washington Post. "I call these people the modern-day Rosa Parks - they are protesting against injustice and a loss of liberties," he described the protesters.
In an interview with CBS News on April 17, the right-wing economist said, "It’s interesting to me that the right has become more the Rosa Parks of the world than the left is." He made a similar comment during a YouTube video conference with Independence Institute (quoted by the New York Times), in which he added, "We need to be the Rosa Parks here, and protest against these government injustices."
In the chat posted online on April 14, Moore said that he was aiding in organizing a 'drive-in' protest in Wisconsin, where the statewide lockdown has been extended to May 26, by Democratic governor, Tony Evers.
Many were enraged that Moore likened the protesters of the COVID-19 safety measures to a black activist and icon who fought against racial discrimination, by refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white passenger in 1955. Parks was arrested on grounds of civil disobedience at a time when there was severe racial segregation, which was a moment of truth for the civil rights movement.
According to the Washington Post, Moore implied that the protests were spontaneously organized at the local level and his group has been on stand by to offer them advice or legal support should they be taken into custody. The protests began as Texas, Minnesota, and Vermont on April 17 announced dates for easing certain lockdown restrictions. Many governments are feeling pressurized by Trump and trying to save their economies even as the threat of the pandemic looms over them and new hot spots continue to pop up.
In Michigan, hundreds of people defied the social distancing norms and clogged the streets in cars or marched in the snow to protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D). Last week Whitmer added more restrictions to the state's lockdown and stay-at-home guidelines. Protesters waved the Star-spangled banner, Trump plays and Confederate flags, screaming "Lock her up!" and "We will not imply!"
The protesters said that these public demonstrations were impromptu happenings as people began to feel that their personal freedom had been taken away from them and collectively gathered to demand a rollback in the emergency measures. Some said they are protesting because of the lockdown's devastating effect on the economy, resulting in more than 22 million people filing for unemployment since the President declared a state of national emergency, last month.
However, public health experts have repeatedly expressed any fast moves in easing the stay-at-home orders could lead to a second wave of the pandemic, which could do much more harm than the first time.
About 100 protesters gathered at the statehouse in Ohio, violating social distancing guidelines, after Governor Mike DeWine (R), announced that the assembly planned to safely reopen the economy before the stay-at-home order expires on May 1. DeWine and Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health said that reopening will happen in phases.
The Washington Post also reported that in states like North Carolina, activists are organizing protests through closed Facebook groups which have been growing rapidly.
Moore's controversial remarks started a Twitter storm as users took to the platform to express their displeasure.
"When Rosa Parks sat at the front of the bus, she didn't endanger other people's lives. She endangered whiteness. I know it is difficult for some people to separate the two, though," said one user.
"Rosa Parks and every other soul that participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott endured more than 380 days of harassment, assaults, and firebombings. They woke up on 380 mornings, one after the other, knowing they were putting their lives at risk," said Bryan Lyman of Montgomery Advertiser. "The participants in the boycott endured terrorism for their principles. Don’t make these comparisons lightly."
Social entrepreneur and author Jessica Shortall talking bout Moore's comments said, "So desperate to wear the mantle of being oppressed without ever enduring oppression."
"In other words, the decision to invoke Rosa Parks is intended to evoke outrage while simultaneously obscuring the real racial and economic injustice people are facing and delegitimize both the legacy of the civil rights mvmt and the ongoing struggles. We should give this NO AIR," said Isa Bae Wells of New York Times Magazine
"I'll never forget the day Rosa Parks got on the bus with a submachine gun and refused to wear a mask because of freedom", Mark Harris, a columnist for Vulture and New York Magazine added.