According to new reporting by the Guardian, cell phone location data shows protesters attending the anti-social distancing demonstrations often traveled hundreds of miles to and from the protests––raising “the prospect that the protests will play a role in spreading the coronavirus epidemic to areas which have, so far, experienced relatively few infections.”
Reports have shown that people attending the events have since tested positive for COVID-19, including a leader of the North Carolina protest. And more than 70 people in Wisconsin who indicated they had attended a rally against the state’s stay-at-home order tested positive for coronavirus after the April 24th protest at the Wisconsin statehouse.
Despite early warnings from experts that the protests could lead to increases in cases, extremists continued to organize for demonstrations across the country, including another demonstration in Lansing, Michigan just last week, marking the third time in a month that heavily-armed demonstrators appeared at the Michigan Capitol. At all three rallies, demonstrators have likened Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to Hitler, ignored social distancing requirements, and openly carried military-style firearms.
Many anti-quarantine rallies have the veneer of grassroots support, but in truth, they are well-coordinated intimidation efforts––fueled by dangerous rhetoric and encouragement from NRA leadership, and attended by some of the same extremists who took part in the deadly Charlottesville rally of 2017, and the Richmond gun rally of January 2020.
The open carry of firearms in state capitol buildings ––which is being used at these rallies as an intimidation tool––is not prohibited by law in most of the states where they have taken place. Extremists have used similar intimidation tactics at the Charlottesville rally, the Richmond gun rally, and other protests.