The United States federal government was slow to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, while state governments declared a mix of locklown measures and mandatory distancing orders in March.
On April 21, anti-lockdown protests were organized in a dozen states questioning the existence of the virus and challenging lockdown restrictions. Rallies in Michigan and Washington state gathered thousands while a few dozen protesters joined in Virginia and Oregon. In Arizona, a motorcade protest created a gridlock around the capitol building, while in Colorado, hundreds of protesters on foot were met with a counter protest by a few health care workers. On April 30, hundreds of protesters, some of them armed, attempted to enter the legislative chamber of the Michigan state capitol and were held back by state police.
Other protests highlighting the effects of the pandemic and the government’s ineffective response included rallies by nurses in New York City and Washington DC, demonstrations for rent cancellation on May 1, and protests concerned for the health of inmates and asylum-seekers in detention.
Following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, protests began in Minneapolis on May 26 and spread to over 2,000 cities and towns in the U.S. and 60 countries. Although most protests were peaceful, some turned violent fueled by police responses that included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and the arrest of journalists covering demonstrations. Several cities announced curfews to curb rallies, while President Trump insisted on a “dominant” response to protesters. In Washington D.C., peaceful protesters were tear-gassed to facilitate a photo opportunity for President Trump. On June 3, New York Police Department vehicles drove into protesters and one police officer pulled a Black protester’s mask down to pepper spray him in the face. In some cities, protests have continued for more than three weeks.
INCLO issued a statement condemning the use of excessive force and the misuse of less-lethal weapons against protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an INCLO member, announced that it filed a lawsuit against Minnesota’s state and local law enforcement for targeting journalists during protests and using excessive force. The ACLU has filed similar suits on behalf of Black Lives Matter activists in Washington, DC and Seattle, Washington and ACLU affiliates have filed at least two additional cases in North Carolina (which quickly resulted in preliminary relief) and Indiana.
Pic: AP Photo/ Frank Franklin II/ACLU
(Labelled for non-commercial re-use.)