Protesters all over the US say shutdowns are unconstitutional

Courtesy+of+thehill.com+

Courtesy of thehill.com

Danielle Dix , News Editor

In response to the coronavirus shutdown, there have been multiple protests all over the United States. These protesters claim that the government is restricting their freedom and that the stay-at-home order is explicitly against the constitution.

Major protests have occurred in Arizona, Washington, Montana and Colorado, as well as dozens of other states. 

“We believe that the state governor has gone beyond his constitutional authority in shutting down businesses and ordering people to stay at home,” said Tyler Miller, a protest organizer in Washington State.

According to Evan Gerstmann, a writer for Forbes.com, “the Constitution protects the right to associate, assemble, worship and travel.” He also mentions that government orders “only allows the suspension of the ordinary judicial process in the event of war, invasion, or rebellion.”

However, in the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, where a pastor claimed the mandatory smallpox vaccination was unconstitutional, the court stated, “in every well-ordered society [. . .] the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.”

Other protesters have similar sentiments, saying that the shutdowns are restricting their freedom as Americans and causing more harm than good.  But others express that staying at home is essential to save lives.

NPR senior editor Maria Godoy stated in her article, “the idea is to increase social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus, so that you don’t get a huge spike in the number of people getting sick all at once. If that were to happen, there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds or mechanical ventilators.”

The National Institute of Health determined in 2007 that rapid response was crucial to containing the 1918 flu epidemic and saving lives.

According to the study, “cities where public health officials imposed multiple social containment measures within a few days after the first local cases were recorded cut peak weekly death rates by up to half compared with cities that waited just a few weeks to respond.”

Christian Yingling, a former commanding officer of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia and a protester in Colorado, stated “I’m going to do what I got to do to feed my family. If it means I got to risk my health, then so be it… and, yes, even potentially the health of others. My mortgage payments are late, my truck payment is late and if I lose either of those I’m dead in the water.”

Some protesters claim that the shutdown is an overreaction to a virus that they claim is no worse than the flu. 

Rick Becker, a protester in North Dakota, said, “the hysteria that surrounded the coronavirus from the beginning was disproportionate.”

However, according to healthdata.org, as of March 7, the death toll in America due to COVID-19 was 74,832, more than the total American deaths in the Vietnam war.  This number is also higher than the average yearly deaths due to the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “influenza has resulted in between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.”

Some protesters, such as the ones in the Michigan Capitol Building on April 30, were armed while they protested. Four protesters in Raleigh, NC were arrested on April 28 for breaking a fence while trying to break into the Executive Mansion, where the Governor of North Carolina resides.

Protesters, some armed, spill into Michigan Capitol building demanding end to stay-at-home order 

There has been significant pushback from healthcare professionals and government officials all over the country in response to the protests, as most protesters are not taking preventative measures like wearing masks. COVID-19 has put a significant strain on hospitals and those who work within them, and more cases will only exacerbate things further.

In Colorado, Alyson McClaran, a freelance photojournalist, captured a man and woman in medical scrubs blocking the flow of the protesters

Coronavirus protests: the moment a man in scrubs confronted drivers

There have also been protests against Governor Phil Murphy in Trenton on Tues. April 28. Ayla Wolf, a protester, stated, “businesses are suffering; unemployment checks are not being sent; landlords are not getting rent. We feel like these directives are causing more suffering than is necessary.”

Governor Murphy announced on his twitter on March 31 that “residents who are eligible for unemployment will receive an additional $600 per week through July 31 because of the federal relief bills.”

He also encouraged businesses to keep their employees on the payroll stating, “we urge employers to keep your workers on payroll throughout this crisis. If you do, you will be eligible for a dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit against those costs – this is available to 99.8 percent of all businesses in New Jersey.”

There is no sign that the protests are going to cease soon, as there have been more protests all over the country in the past few weeks, including a protest in Michigan’s state capitol.

There is also fear that because of these protests, COVID-19 will spread at a faster rate due to the protesters gathering in large groups and not wearing protective gear like masks.

Dr. Gottlieb, on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” said, “you can see this slow simmer explode into a new epidemic or large outbreaks. That’s the concern — that if we don’t snuff this out more, and you have this slow burn of infection, it can ignite at any time.”