Your right to protest doesn’t make your protest right

APRIL 30, 2O20

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100 today

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Please note: The current Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is fast moving, and reactions to it seem to update not just day-by-day but minute-by-minute. Obviously, this site was not designed to bring you the very latest developments in a ‘breaking news’ story such as this. Instead, this site will continue to include news and opinions relating to major events, policy changes, and so on.
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Today, some US states and European countries are planning for a relaxation of the lockdown regulations, as they believe the peak of the pandemic is now passed. Not all restrictions are being scrapped at the same time and, it seems, a gradual de-escalation is preferred. Vulnerable people, such as those with chronic diseases (such as MS), with disabilities, and the elderly,  appear likely to still remain under ‘stay-at-home’ orders for some months to come.

This article, written by me, first appeared in The Locus on April 25.

Derivative work, using ‘TV Static Screenshot 2’ by Justin March, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Recently, demonstrations have been taking place in states across America, as protestors rebel against the COVID-19 stay-at-home measures and other lockdown laws.
These people have taken it upon themselves to ignore the needs of the many, demanding immediate action to ease, if not end, the restrictions brought in to help stop the spread of the virus.
Why? For no good reason.
According to the Seattle Times, on Sunday, 19th of April, more than 2,000 people gathered at a rally in Olympia, Washington, with pictures revealing that social distancing was flouted.
Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and public health scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, soon took to Twitter, commenting: “I predict a new epidemic surge (incubation time ~5-7 days before onset symptoms, if any, and transmission to associates around that time, even among asymptomatics)… so increase in 2-4 weeks from now.”
It won’t be long until we find out if he’s right.
Some Washington state representatives were seen to take part, including Jim Walsh, Vicki Kraft and Robert Sutherland. The Seattle Times said Sutherland appeared to have a handgun tucked into his pants and was particularly upset about a ban on recreational fishing.
“Governor, you send men with guns after us for going fishing, we’ll see what a revolution looks like,” he reportedly said.

Close but not close enough

Now that is going too far. If it were not for the fact that it does not call for imminent unlawful action, that statement would constitute arrest and prosecution for inciting violence.
Protesters say the stay-at-home measures imposed by states are an overreaction to COVID-19. They claim that restricting movement and closing businesses are unnecessarily hurting citizens.

A downtown Minneapolis restaurant forced to close. Image via Flickr Chad DavisCC BY-SA 2.0

Such claims are made either out of ignorance or denial of the evidence that has emerged from other countries. This is no time to stick your head in the sand. Listen to scientists and health professionals. These restrictions are unpleasant but necessary, according to those trying to save us – those working in science, epidemiology, public health, healthcare, and social care.

Some protestors have attended these demonstrations bearing firearms. Why? Because they claim the restrictions infringe on civil liberties. Of course, none of the restrictions contravene the Second Amendment, so the right to bear arms is not compromised, but it seems the suggestion of gun violence is inherently linked with these rallies.

On the wider issue of civil liberties, don’t get me started.

I was a member of the National Council for Civil Liberties and taking part in campaigns for civil liberties before most of these protesters were born. Known since 1989 as Liberty, this human rights advocacy organisation is the UK equivalent to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In my view, civil liberties are desperately important and represent a key feature of any progressive democracy – but, in a civil emergency such as this pandemic, civil defence, public health, and safety of all must take priority.

Other criticisms have been levelled at the effects the restrictions will have on those workers laid off due to non-essential business closure, the self-employed no longer able to work, the vulnerable, and so on.

US response is appalling

On this matter, it’s hard to disagree. The US response has been appalling.

Just look at what some countries are doing to protect the jobs of those unable to work: France is guaranteeing 75% of wages, the UK promises 80% and Spain has opted for 100%.

A pub gets the last laugh in London, UK. Image via Flickr Duncan CCC BY-NC 2.0

In the US, unemployment benefits have been boosted by $600 a week and are now easier to claim. Then there is the one-off ‘stimulus’ payment of $1,200 to anyone earning less than $75,000 a year. In light of the severe economic downturn this pandemic will cause, that’s pathetic.

How far will that go? Absolutely nowhere. It’s worse than a joke. And, for the supposed leader of the Western world, it shows little more than contempt for citizens.

President Trump has not helped the situation. Despite what he may say now, he did decry it as a hoax. Once he could no longer justify that, he said it would soon pass and that it was no worse than flu – that there was no need for restrictions. One lie after another.

Then there was the infamous interview in which he said he’d like to see America open up again “by Easter”, despite not even a shred of guidance suggesting that such a target was possible.

In this entire situation, the person I feel for the most is Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force. He has warned that, if the US moves too quickly to end stay-at-home orders, there could be another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Trump presses on regardless.

Does he believe he’s right? Does any responsible voter believe he’s right? This is an election year, after all.

The answer, as usual, will likely take some time to emerge.

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Spelling

Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.

For example:

Centre                              not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control)                  Colour                              not color                                                                                                                      Diarrhoea                       not diarrhea                                                                                                  Haematology                not hematology                                                                                Haematopoietic          not hematopoietic

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.

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