As small groups of protesters gathered in a handful of states across the country, right-wing economist Stephen Moore compared their actions to none other than civil rights icon Rosa Parks, as reported by The Washington Post. What were these protesters doing in groups that almost certainly don’t fit the guidelines for social distancing during a global pandemic? Oh, they’re protesting their respective states’ stay-at-home orders, of course.
“I call these people the modern-day Rosa Parks—they are protesting against injustice and a loss of liberties,” Moore told the Post in an interview. Moore himself is no stranger to controversial, offensive, and bizarre statements, and in fact, had already uttered a similar sentiment to CBS News, saying: “It’s interesting to me that the right has become more the Rosa Parks of the world than the left is.”
Along with being patently offensive to Parks’ memory—and astoundingly ignorant given what we know so far about the disproportionate impact the virus is having on Black and Latinx communities—why does what Moore has to say on the matter, well, matter? Moore is not only a White House adviser, but he’s actually on Trump’s council to reopen the nation. All of this focus on reopening, of course, without most people being tested and no vaccine for the novel coronavirus. On a YouTube live stream, Moore also suggested that he’s assisting in the creation of a fund for defense legal fees for people who may be arrested during the protests, as reported by The Daily Beast.
What are protesters saying? According to one spokesperson for protesters in Minnesota, as told to local outlet WCCO, that group had gathered in protest due to “suffering from financial setbacks and depression, among other issues.” In a statement to local outlet TMJ4, group ReOpen Wisconsin issued the following statement explaining in part: “the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny. It is not sustainable to continue this lockdown as the economic and societal consequences will be irreversible.” As reported by Cleveland.com, some hundred protesters chanted “we are not sheep” and “U-S-A” outside of the Ohio Statehouse over the weekend.
"You cannot make the treatment worse than the disease," Lesli Engleman, a mother who told WUSA9 she used to be a healthcare worker, said to the outlet while at an Annapolis protest on Friday.
Videos of the protests have made rounds on Twitter.
The bright side? A lot of mainstream media coverage is treating these protests like they are larger than they actually are. Now, that’s not to suggest the protests are no big deal, or that they’re harmless. They’re downright unnerving, especially if their existence sets a foundation for others to follow. But the actual attendance numbers appear to be relatively low. In fact, various studies suggest most people are still taking social distancing seriously, though the ability to fully work from home, for example, is certainly a luxury steeped in structural inequalities.