Ross McCool examines the danger of the anti-lockdown protests across the globe.
After many nations have instituted the greatest lockdown in human history, many anti-lockdown protests have taken place across the globe, including close to home in Glasgow Green. However, the protests that are currently happening in the United States have gained international attention and scrutiny due to their armed nature. At the beginning of May, after being harassed by armed protestors campaigning against lockdown measures in and around the Michigan State legislature building, armed counter-protesters escorted representatives to ensure that a legislative response could occur. This was followed by protesters blocking streets that surrounded several hospitals, affecting the ability of medical professionals to respond to the needs of patients. But is this right?
It is not hard to empathise with these protestors. Civil liberties have been curtailed to combat terrorism in the response to 9/11 and the war on terror. A textbook example of this is the Patriot Act which provided the Federal government with the ability to quickly respond to and deter terrorism domestically and globally. What should be remembered is that this was passed through into law quickly with minimal scrutiny and restricted judicial ability to scrutinise and stop abusive uses of this. This is especially true in today’s world; our rights have never been more important. Rights are being challenged in the name of combatting terrorism. The presence of a peaceful protest and the ability to speak freely without the fear of persecution are essential components of a healthy democracy. Normally, exercising these not only are common practice but promoted, however, we are nowhere near normal currently. We are amid one of the biggest pandemics in human history.
It is hard to downplay the severity of Covid-19. In the US alone, just under 2 million positive cases and 118,000 deaths have been reported. This is likely an underestimate of the true number. This has resulted in the US having the highest number of coronavirus deaths reported in the world. It is worth noting that these demonstrations have provided a breeding ground for the spread of Covid-19, which has only deteriorated the situation and reinforced the need for cooperation by self-isolating at home.
It is no help that President Trump has praised anti-lockdown protests. However, the praise of a man that recommends that his citizens drink disinfectant to combat the coronavirus infection is not a reputable one. After the levels of people attending hospitals as a result of ingesting these chemicals has risen after Trump’s comments, I don’t doubt that if Trump were to change his mind and denounce these protests, then they too would drop in frequency, however unlikely this may seem. This pandemic has also caused Trump to claim that he should be considered among wartime presidents such as Roosevelt and Truman. The US may not currently be at war, but the wartime spirit, solidarity and community are needed at this unprecedented time more than ever. Through this unity, the United States and the wider world can do the right thing through necessary action that we must all globally undertake. Save the lives of many in our community by remaining at home.
Despite these protests, the often more overlooked aspect of this discussion is the role of our responsibilities that come along with our rights. We must remember our duty to uphold the responsibilities that come with our rights, without these, they become undermined. Why should these rights be allowed if we cannot engage in meaningful, peaceful, and safe discourse? To put it simply, why be expected to be treated as an adult when carrying out childish acts that threaten lives? We are given rights and expected to act appropriately when exercising these.
This anti-lockdown response has primarily come from groups that have links to the far right in America, which has long promoted a call of obeying authority with regards to topics such as immigration. It is now time this group practices what it preaches and respects and follows the directions of local authorities that are enforcing a lockdown procedure. By violating this, they fail in our duty to ensure our cooperative role in preserving public health and safety. If groups insist on protesting lockdown measures, do so observing social distancing and hygiene measures. But most importantly of all, do not block the ability of healthcare professionals responding to the needs of patients. Through this simple action, protestors can both exercise their right to peacefully protest whilst upholding the duty of care that this right comes with. It is important to remember that just because these actions may be legal, does not mean they are automatically moral. The right decision is to continue to remain at home, stop the spread of this virus and save lives. It is a simple trade-off now that will benefit a great many later. This surely is a civilised and adult response to a challenge that we have never faced before.
Wherever we are in the world, there is a lesson that can be learned from the anti-lockdown protests that are occurring in the US. If we accept our responsibilities and act in the right manner, we can stay home and save lives.