Danger in protest
Social media and cable news lit up Thursday with images from Lansing, Mich., where armed protesters descended on the Capitol to demand an end to the state’s coronavirus lockdown.
At the federal level, the response to the protests has been muddled. President Donald Trump urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, to “make a deal.”
But his coronavirus task force coordinator, Deborah Birx, tried to guilt the protesters into backing down. “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious . . . or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives. So we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent,” Birx said on Fox News Sunday.
Consider first the fact that the protesters were armed. Given the lack of threat to protesters’ safety, the only reason to conspicuously display weapons was to project strength beyond their small numbers. (Note that nearly 80 percent of Michiganders support continuing the stay-home order.)
Let’s also acknowledge that the protesters pushing cops and toting rifles into the Capitol were white. As marketer Frederick Joseph pointed out on Twitter, had black protesters tried that, “we’d be dead.” Different Americans have different First Amendment rights.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, infamously told Fox News last month that the country needed to reopen because “there are more important things than living.”
So no, those protesting stay-home orders in Michigan are not going to be persuaded by guilt. Lives saved is not a metric that will sway their minds. The more officials understand that, the better they’ll be able to deal with these protests in the future.