A massive group of demonstrators gathered at Wisconsin’s state Capitol to protest Governor Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order – imposed to stem the spread of Covid-19 – in what appears to be the largest anti-lockdown action to date.
At least 1,500 people descended on Madison on Friday to call for a repeal of the containment measures, according to the Wisconsin Capitol Police. Spurred on by the economic pain inflicted under the lockdown, the protest comes as hundreds of thousands of residents are out of a job, or around one in eight workers.
Carrying a vibrant array of flags, signs and banners, the demonstrators made their presence known outside of the shuttered Capitol building. Though they were denied a permit to hold the protest earlier this week, the event’s planners went ahead regardless, with one organizer stating she was “willing to risk citation” in order to be heard.
THOUSANDS turn out to protest Lockdown in Wisconsin #OpenTheEconomypic.twitter.com/5Izv5Tm4E4
Madison Wisconsin Rally for Freedom Today…. pic.twitter.com/iyVHDLk3U6
Incredible view from @WISN12News News Chopper 12 over Madison this afternoon showing the “stay home” protest against @GovEvers order. That is a lot of people. Our crew on the ground reports some people are carrying long guns at this protest. @ABC@ABCNewsLivepic.twitter.com/7Cr8GUmNgC
Governor Evers extended his “safer at home” order last week, with the containment measures now set to expire on May 26, but the second phase of lockdown will ease some of the restrictions, allowing public libraries, golf courses and a number of other “non-essential” businesses to reopen. Republican lawmakers attempted to block the extension earlier this week, filing a lawsuit calling for an injunction against the policy, but the courts have yet to grant the request.
Despite the relaxed rules, Wisconsin workers will continue to take a beating under the lockdown, seeing far worse unemployment numbers than at the height of the 2008 financial meltdown.
“Even in 2008, we didn’t have half of the unemployment claims throughout the whole great recession,” Emily Savard with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development told local media, adding that over 440,000 residents have filed for unemployment, drowning the state’s system in claims and inquiries. Nationwide, the business shutdowns could help to quadruple federal deficit spending to $3.7 trillion as lawmakers pass a series of massive relief packages, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
On top of economic woes, the protesters also voiced concerns about abuse of power and government overreach, some hoisting signs dubbing Evers a “power grabber,” while another placard sardonically read: “Oh, no! A virus. Quick … let’s burn the Bill of Rights.”
Hello from the “Reopen Wisconsin” rally in Madison. pic.twitter.com/svsSjrnCQc
The event was not without its detractors, however, with many warning that Wisconsin has recorded a surge in coronavirus cases over the last week and that aggressive social distancing – including business closures – was still necessary. Federal guidelines recommend that states proceed with reopening only after cases decline for 14 days straight, which Wisconsin is yet to see.
As people protest #Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order, it’s useful to consider criteria #Trump created for states to “re-open”, including 14-day downward trends in positive cases or % positive cases. See the graphs displaying the last 18 days for both for WI. Criteria not fulfilled. pic.twitter.com/Aeew18JRQ8
Wisconsin saw the highest number of newly infected #Covid_19 cases since the pandemic began today. @repvos encouraged the protests and wants to re-open Wisconsin emergently. Baffled. Please stay at home. We are in this together. Concerned Wisconsin Citizen & Healthcare Provider
As tens of millions are out of work due to containment measures imposed in states across the US, similar demonstrations have erupted elsewhere in recent weeks, including in Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Colorado, though Friday’s event in Wisconsin appears to have drawn the largest crowd of them all. While the crowd got raucous at times, police say no arrests were made and no citations handed out during the protest.
The US has recorded around 890,000 coronavirus infections and just over 51,000 fatalities, with more than 5,300 cases and 260 deaths counted in Wisconsin. Though federal health officials have pointed to a declining number of new cases in the nation’s largest hotspots, such as New York, fatalities have continued to soar, with the US repeatedly topping previous daily death tolls.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!