Facebook started banning event posts that promote anti-quarantine protests. “Events that defy governments’ guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, confirmed to CNN. He pointed out that groups and individual posts will still be allowed, but the company is working closely with state governments in New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio to determine its approach to demonstrations, according to the Washington Times. Mr. Stone stated that the events will not be removed unless the government prohibits it.
Republicans blasted Facebook for removing these posts, criticizing it for the encroachment of constitutional right for free speech at the behest of the state governments. “Why is Facebook colluding with state governments to quash peoples free speech?” wrote Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter. The American Civil Liberties Union also condemned this move, stating that “speech about government responses to the pandemic – from relief packages like the Cares Act to stay-home orders – is core political speech.”
Large protests to lift draconian lockdown measures and reopen the economy have taken place in several states over the past few days. Demonstrators in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, Florida, California, Tennessee, Washington, and Montana gathered in dozens of cities demanding to end stay-at-home orders according to Newsweek. They openly defied social distancing guidelines, many held signs with slogans such as “This is tyranny, not quarantine,” “Fear is the real virus,” “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me COVID-19!” Streets in Annapolis, Maryland, were packed with cars as people blocked traffic and protested from their cars as Slate reported. “People’s rights are being taken and people are out of work. It’s time to get back to work. It’s time to get people out there, interacting and being with the people they care about,” said one protestor from Illinois to ABC 7 Chicago.
President Trump voiced his support for protesters on Twitter: “I just think that some of the governors have gotten carried away.” He praised the efforts to defy shelter-in-place orders imposed by governors and push for loosening the restrictions. “I call these people the modern-day Rosa Parks—they are protesting against injustice and a loss of liberties,” said the White House adviser Stephen Moore to the Washington Post. He also pointed out that “a boiling point that has been reached and exceeded.”
Democratic governors responded with concern and asked the President to urge people to follow federal guidelines in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), who has come under criticism for handling coronavirus in her state and issuing an executive order that paralyzed all businesses and operations in Michigan, responded that it’s dangerous to protest amid the pandemic and stated that she would appreciate if Trump administration can “reiterate the importance of staying home until we get these numbers down.”