The novel coronavirus is a bundle of proteins. It doesn’t care about faith, freedom, jobs or right-wing conspiracy theories, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of Americans from defying all medical advice to protest against lockdown measures meant to keep them safe — often while standing unmasked and shoulder to shoulder.
The virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, have had a devastating human and economic impact on many nations around the world, including hard-hit Italy and Spain. However, no country has seen more deaths to date than the United States — and no country’s citizens have fought harder against the lockdowns than those in the U.S.
Dozens of protests broke out across the country over the last week, amid a swirl of right-wing conspiracy theories, economic frustration, anti-science rhetoric and encouragement from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Many of the protests have blended calls for defying government tyranny with calls for Trump’s re-election.
Their protests have mixed legitimate calls for economic help with bogus conspiracy theories about the virus, often while ignoring public health advice measures meant to prevent its spread.
“These people love our country,” Trump said on Sunday, when asked about the people violating his own government’s recommendations. “They want to get back to work.”
Trump also appeared to encourage the protesters on Friday, when he urged Americans to “LIBERATE” three states run by Democratic governors. The comments came a few days after pro-Trump groups rallied outside state legislatures in Ohio and Michigan to demand a loosening of the doctor-recommended lockdowns.
Hundreds responded to Trump’s words by showing up at many state capitol buildings over the weekend, where they donned U.S.A.-themed outfits and waved pro-Trump and pro-freedom signs. Some of them protested from the safety of their vehicles, but others got out and jammed together in person.
One of the largest gatherings occurred in Austin, Texas, where Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones helped fire up the crowd on Saturday.
Protesters held signs decrying vaccines, quoting apocalyptic verses from the Bible and demanding the ousting of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert and an adviser to Trump on the White House’s coronavirus response team.
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“Fire Fauci!” the crowd chanted at one point in Austin on Saturday, in a chant led by Alex Jones. “Fire Fauci!”