Thousands of angry Americans are taking to the streets in coronavirus backlash protests which are being likened to “zombie hordes”.
Thousands of angry Americans are taking to the streets in coronavirus backlash protests which are being likened to “zombie hordes”.

‘Zombie hordes’: US virus backlash begins

In Michigan, they descended on the state capital in hundreds of cars honking horns, yelling slogans and angrily waving American flags, Trump flags and placards.

With patriotic songs blaring from car radios, they chanted "lock her up, lock her up" in a desperate plea against their governor's lockdown restrictions.

In Columbus, Ohio they got out of their cars and swarmed in a tightly packed throng on the statehouse in Capitol Square and pounded on doors demanding to see the governor.

Wearing Guy Fawkes masks, Make America Great Again hats and Stars and Stripes shirts, they pressed up against glass windows.

With their faces contorted with rage and fear, they "resembled a zombie horde," US media reported.

When a printed piece of paper from the governor was produced, one person used a rifle brought along to the protest to shoot at it.

Describing themselves as patriots and blaming the World Health Organisation for their nation being turned upside down, they said they didn't fear coronavirus.

Instead, they said it was the job lay-offs and virus-caused economic crash causing them to struggle to pay bills and rent or mortgages that was endangering their lives.

President Trump is seen to be encouraging the protests. A day after Mr Trump gave U.S. governors a road map for recovering from the pandemic's financial pain and told them they could call the shots, he egged on demonstrators in Democratic states in a series of tweets: "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" "LIBERATE VIRGINIA."

This backlash protest against coronavirus lockdowns in Columbus, Ohio has been likened to a ‘zombie horde’. Picture: Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch
This backlash protest against coronavirus lockdowns in Columbus, Ohio has been likened to a ‘zombie horde’. Picture: Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch

 

 

Over in Lansing, Michigan's capital, angry citizens flocked to the streets in a noisy bumper-to-bumper outcry called "Operation Gridlock" against what they believed were lockdown restrictions gone too far.

"Quarantine is when you restrict movement of sick people. Tyranny is when you restrict the movement of healthy people," Operation Gridlock organiser Meshawn Maddock told Fox News.

The person accused of being a tyrant is Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer whose expanded stay-at-home orders prohibit crossing the street to visit neighbours or driving to see friends.

In response to Michigan's fourth-largest confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US, of more than 27,000, Ms Whitmer banned public and private gatherings regardless of size or family ties and she placed restrictions on what types of businesses may operate and in what capacity.

Confused shoppers found they could buy alcohol and visit the grocery store, but couldn't go to a garden centre.

Her order swiftly required large stores to shut down or rope off sections where items like carpet, flooring or hardware was sold.

Signs showing Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are taped to vehicles during a protest in Lansing. Picture: Paul Sancya
Signs showing Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are taped to vehicles during a protest in Lansing. Picture: Paul Sancya

 

 

Beginning with a Facebook group called "Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine," it led to furious letters to politicians and rising ire fanned by conservative media commentators like Rush Limbaugh.

Four county sheriffs joined in the disobedience, writing an open letter informing residents they would not be "strictly" enforcing Ms Whitmer's new order.

When the ensuing backlash reached Michigan streets it became among the most heated in the country, with placards calling Ms Whitmer a "Nazi" and accusing her of treating them like slaves.

But it isn't just Michigan. Americans are rising up in may states.

Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick earlier called on Americans to sacrifice their lives, telling Fox News that grandparents across the country should be proud to die from the coronavirus if it meant the younger generations could get back to work.

One other Republican said recently that getting Americans back to their business was "the lesser of two evils".

The furious response and refusal to comply with lockdowns can be traced to US President Donald Trump's comments prior to Easter, saying the economy could be reopening by that weekend, thecut.com reported.

 

 

Ignoring health warnings as the death toll in his country was on its upward trajectory of becoming the global highest, Mr Trump's words seemed to have sparked a movement.

Protesters in North Carolina clashed with police and were arrested carrying banners about their constitutional rights and "ReOpen NC", the name of a Facebook pages which now has tens of thousands of members.

On the page, organisers posted messages like: "We are losing our small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy."

One message posted on the page said: "The vulnerable can be isolated or protected in other ways, without sacrificing our entire state economy."

 

 

In Wyoming, which was the last US state to register a coronavirus death among its spread-out population, a group of 20 protested last week in a park against government-mandated restrictions and pleaded to instead let people go back to work.

Some 16.8 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last three weeks, meaning one in 10 working Americans is out of a job.

Fox News reported that these figures "collectively constituted the largest and fastest string of job losses in records dating to 1948".

"By contrast, during the Great Recession (the economic downturn from 2007 to 2009), it took 44 weeks - roughly 10 months - for unemployment claims to go as high as they now have in less than a month," Fox News said.

candace.sutton@news.com.au

Originally published as 'Zombie hordes': US virus backlash begins


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