Coronavirus pandemic: LIVING UNDER LOCKDOWN

Coronavirus: Americans rally against movement curbs amid growing resentment

Hit by economic fallout, they want restraints to be lifted in areas with fewer cases

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Texas became the latest US state Saturday hit by a protest largely from supporters of President Donald Trump anxious to get back to work, while the governor of New York said his coronavirus-battered state may finally be past the worst there.
A protester outside the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday. Demonstrations also took place in cities such as San Diego, California, as well as in the states of Indiana, Nevada and Wisconsin.
A protester outside the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday. Demonstrations also took place in cities such as San Diego, California, as well as in the states of Indiana, Nevada and Wisconsin. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CONCORD • Hundreds of people demonstrated on Saturday in cities across the United States against coronavirus-related lockdowns - with encouragement from President Donald Trump - as resentment grows against the crippling economic cost of prolonged confinement.

An estimated 400 people gathered under a cold rain in Concord, New Hampshire - many on foot while others remained in their cars - to send a message that extended quarantines were not necessary in a state with relatively few confirmed cases of Covid-19, an Agence France-Presse photographer reported.

The crowd included several armed men wearing military-style uniforms, with their faces covered.

In Texas, more than 250 people rallied outside the Texas State Capitol in Austin, including far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, founder of the Infowars site, who rolled up in a tank-like truck.

"It's time to reopen Texas, it's time to let people work, it's time for them to let voluntary interaction and good sense rule the day, not government force," said Mr Justin Greiss, an activist with Young Americans for Liberty.

Stay-at-home mother Amira Abuzeid added: "I'm not a doctor but I'm an intelligent person who can do math, and it looks like at the end of the day, these numbers are not that worrisome."

Demonstrators outside Maryland's colonial-era statehouse in Annapolis stayed in their cars but waved signs with messages like "Poverty kills too".

Other demonstrations took place in cities such as Columbus, Ohio, and San Diego, California, as well as in the states of Indiana, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Few, if any, observed social distancing recommendations but many of the protesters waved American flags.

Protesters have drawn encouragement in certain Democratic-led states from tweets by Mr Trump, who has said he favours a quick return to normality, though protests also took place in Republican-led states such as New Hampshire and Texas.

The US has seen more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country in the world - with more than 740,000 confirmed infections and more than 39,000 fatalities as of yesterday.

The vast majority of Americans are under lockdown orders restricting public movement and keeping all but essential businesses closed.

In Concord, demonstrators carried signs with slogans such as "The numbers lie" and "Reopen New Hampshire". Their common demand was that the stay-at-home order for the state of 1.3 million people be called off before its scheduled May 4 end date.

Others, amid a sea of American flags, chanted the state's Revolutionary War-era slogan "Live Free or Die".

"People are very happy on a voluntary basis to do what's necessary," one demonstrator, 63-year-old Skip Murphy, told Agence France-Presse.

He added, however, that "the data does not support the egregious lockdown we are having in New Hampshire".

He said only the south-eastern part of the state, near the Boston metropolitan area, had an elevated incidence of the disease, and he argued that the rest of the state, with far fewer cases, should be exempted from confinement orders.

As of last Friday morning, New Hampshire had reported 1,287 confirmed cases and 37 deaths.

"What about our constitutional rights?" Mr Murphy said.

"All over the country, a lot of people are saying, 'We will do our part, but at the same time this is supposed to be a free country'.

"When that gets transgressed, people start to say, 'Wait a minute, this is wrong'."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Americans rally against movement curbs amid growing resentment. Subscribe