'Lockdown Rebellion' gathers steam as protesters defy stay-at-home orders to back Trump's call to 'liberate' states
The president came up with a master stroke to ignite the public against the Democratic governors who have been defying his authority over reopening the country
President Donald Trump’s arm-wrestling with some of the Democratic-governed states over reopening the country’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was taken out to the people’s court on Friday, April 17, when the former urged supporters to ‘LIBERATE’ three blue states. The president’s move was seen to be an encouragement of the growing resistance against lockdown as a measure to check coronavirus. As a result, demonstrations calling on authorities to end the shutdown have occurred in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia and Kentucky.
A day after laying out a roadmap to reopen the country gradually, Trump took to Twitter with rhetorics that his supporters have also used to demand the lifting of the orders. The US economy has been crippled by the pandemic that has hit over 700,000 people in the country and left almost 37,000 dead - the most for any nation. At least 22 million Americans have lost jobs as several businesses and enterprises have shut down.
In a series of tweets, Trump said: ‘LIBERATE MINNESOTA!’ ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN!’ ‘'LIBERATE VIRGINIA’ (he asked it to save its Second Amendment too) besides hitting out at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat who emerged as the main opponent of the president in the battle against COVID-19. He said Cuomo should spend more time “doing” than “complaining”. Trump also put back the onus on the states about the virus testing while they sought help from Washington about the same. “The States have to step up their TESTING!” he tweeted.
Trump has been looking for an opportunity to reopen the economy for he warned a continued lockdown would send people into depression and even suicides. He had an initial plan to open things by Easter but backtracked after his aides advised him against it as it would be putting people’s lives in danger of infection ahead of the general election. Trump now predicts the restoration of normalcy by May 1 though that too has been termed ‘ambitious’ by experts.
While Trump toyed with the idea of reopening and asserted his power, saying the final decision lies with him, governors of some states led by Cuomo challenged him to set up their own coronavirus council to work on the reopening. This slowly triggered a debate over the Tenth Amendment -- the division of power between the federal and state governments and Trump took a counter initiative on engaging business leaders to advise him on the reopening. Eventually, he reached out to the people’s power to see his way prevailing over his opponents.
'Trump encouraging illegal and dangerous acts'
The opponents were not impressed, understandably. Washington Governor and former Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee warned on Friday, April 17, that Trump’s remarks about ‘liberating’ parts of the country from the stay-at-home orders put millions of Americans at risk, Associated Press reported.
In a statement, Inslee even said that Trump was encouraging “illegal and dangerous acts” and that his “unhinged rantings and calls” to “liberate” the states could see violence breaking out.
“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly,” Inslee, who has joined hands with the governors of Oregon and California to work on lifting social restrictions on the basis of science, not politics. Washington saw the US’ first confirmed coronavirus case in January and has over 11,000 positive cases with nearly 600 dead.
But it seems Trump’s appeal has made a bigger impact on the people than any of the governors. They came out in large numbers, even with children, to protest the lockdown with the national flag and banners and Trump’s images. Protests were also held in Orlando, Florida, and Frankfort, Kentucky, demanding the reopening of the states.
In California’s Huntington Beach, around 100 demonstrators defied the stay-at-home orders and displayed banners that read ‘Live free or die’. According to a report in The Orange County Register, the protesters were seen erupting in chants ‘USA! USA!’ while motorists honked horns. The mood was no less than a carnival even as such sights shook the Democratic establishments.
Such scenes were also witnessed in St Paul, Minnesota. Around 400 ‘Liberate Minnesota’ protesters were seen waving flags and holding signs in front of the residence of Democratic Governor Tim Walz, asking him to reopen the economy. Even Republican candidate for Minnesota’s Senate seat Jason Lewis was seen joining hands with the protesters. There were also supporters of the Democratic governor who confronted the protesters.
There were also banners visible that read ‘don’t cancel my golf season’, ‘If Ballots don’t free us, bullets will!’ or ‘be like Sweden’, stressing on the Scandinavian nation’s decision to not go for the lockdown even though that hasn’t seen the nation effectively dealing with the pandemic (over 13,000 affected; 1,400 dead). Some even came up with posters that claimed the entire crisis is ‘fake’ and coronavirus is ‘lie’ and that a distance should be maintained with the media.
Other countries also witnessing resistance against lockdown
It is not just the US that is witnessing public defiance against lockdowns. In the UK, another badly hit nation in Europe, a poll has found that the number of British adults in self-isolation has dropped to 44 percent on Wednesday, April 15, from 55 percent on Monday, April 13, and 46 percent on Tuesday, April 14. The UK has over 109,000 affected people while the death toll has touched 14,000 plus. Even the country’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, was affected but he recovered.
In Africa’s Malawi, the government hit a wall while trying to implement a 21-day lockdown as a rights group won a legal challenge against it. The group -- Human Rights Defenders Coalition -- won an injunction order from the high court on Friday, April 17 that forced the government to wait for at least another week before implementing the lockdown. The group has asked the government to ensure the poor a social safety net before going for the restrictions.