Protests start after growing fear of economy not opening soon enough

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Chad Sparkes(Flickr)

Austin Texas Capital Building

Ivana Venema-Nunez , Reporter

The latest wave of protests against strict public health measures and self-isolation regulations as an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19 were held in state capitals in Maryland, Texas and Ohio with more planned in other states for this coming week. 

Massive shutdowns of restaurants, hotels and public places have left many Americans unemployed, in the last three weeks more than 16 million people have filed for unemployment.

In some states, like Maryland, demonstrators stayed in their car and honked their horns as they drove around the capital to demand Governor Larry Hogan “reopen Maryland” according to an article in The Guardian published on Saturday. 

Hundreds of protesters in Columbus, Ohio gathered and chanted “We are not sheep”.   According to the article, the protesters demanding that their governors reverse shutdown orders have been boosted by the right-wing media outlets and by the president, who tweeted on Friday “Liberate Minnesota!” and “Liberate Michigan” after  Michigan protests drew thousands of people. 

Small businesses are worried they will not survive the next few months of the crisis and are afraid of the deepening economic problems, but according to Pew Research Center Survey, only one-third of 5,000 American adults worry the government won’t lift restrictions quickly enough as opposed to the two-thirds that fear the state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly.

According to the poll, Republicans were evenly divided on this issue at 51% saying they were concerned about restrictions being lifted too quickly. 

Many protesters in Austin, Texas, like Dave Litrell, a bartender whose hours were cut from 35 per week to five, expressed how the pandemic has caused an overreaction of fear and an overreach of government power.

“It’s sad how easily, with the snap of a finger, they’ll just shut down society, and it’s even more sad that most of the people just acquiesce,” he said.

Protests right now do go against local and state stay-at-home orders by simply assembling. 

Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order states that all Texans shall “minimize social gatherings,” and city and county officials in Austin have required people to wear face coverings in public, according to a New York Times article published on Saturday.

A few protesters wore masks but most did not, such as Jax Weaver, 33, an out-of-work photographer who said he is not worried about catching the virus.

“If we did catch the virus, I feel that we’re [his 7-year-old daughter] healthy enough to fight it. And think it would help us build immunity.” Weaver said. 

According to the NYT article, Alex Jones, the founder of InfoWars,  described the spread of the virus as a “Chi-Comm globalist bioweapons attack,” a reference to the Chinese Communist Party.

The organizer for the protest in Austin was Owen Shroyer, the host of a show on InfoWars.

According to the NYT article, InfoWars has been used to spread the false narrative as well as a wide range of conspiracy theories, like contending that the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 was a hoax or staged by the government to confiscate Americans’ firearms. They have been banned by Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube for spreading conspiracy theories but they wear it like a badge of honor. 

Reportedly, not everyone who attended the protest supports Jones and InfoWars, but many are simply frustrated with the state’s stasis.