Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday April 23, 2020
How Trump allies have organized and promoted anti-lockdown protests
Republican politicians and individuals affiliated with President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign are organizing or promoting anti-lockdown protests across key electoral battleground states, despite the White House’s own cautious guidance on relaxing restrictions, interviews with two dozen people involved show.
In Michigan, the organizers of last week’s rally against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic are involved in the Republican president’s re-election effort, a Reuters review of their profiles and interviews with them show.
In other swing states, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina, Republican lawmakers, party leaders and Trump allies encouraged their social media followers to join the protests, often organized by conservative activists and pro-gun- rights groups, and attended the events themselves.
Their actions contradict the Trump administration’s recommendations for a slow and phased reopening, as well as warnings from its own medical experts that opening the economy too fast risks a resurgence of the novel coronavirus that has infected almost 810,000 people in the United States and killed over 45,000 – the world’s highest number of cases and deaths.
A bipartisan majority of Americans – 88% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans – also want to continue to shelter in place despite the impact on the economy, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.
Regardless, many Trump supporters saw his criticism of Democratic governors for going too far with economic restrictions, and his recent tweets calling for those states to be “liberated,” as endorsing their cause, protest organizers and Republican officials said.
They said there had been no communication with the Trump administration or his election campaign over the protests.
The Trump campaign declined to answer whether it had been involved with the protests, referring instead to Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings in which he has expressed sympathy for the protesters, saying he understands their frustration.
Several of the main organizers of the Lansing, Michigan, protest that police estimated drew about 4,000 people have ties to the Trump campaign, and are deeply involved in state Republican politics. (Reuters)