Politicians and public health officials have reached dizzying heights in the double standards they are now employing in their approach to nationwide protests and riots related to the death of George Floyd at the hands of several Minneapolis police officers. COVID-19 precautions and government mandates have closed businesses and schools and put 42 million people out of work so that we can “socially distance” ourselves and save lives. Yet, we are seeing a totally different response from those in authority to the current street protests, which consist of hundreds, sometimes thousands of individuals in close proximity, many of them not using masks.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s look at a few recent examples.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (D) threatened arrests of Hasidic Jews just a few weeks ago for holding a public funeral for a rabbi. But De Blasio’s favorable treatment of this week’s street protests prompted a question from a Jewish reporter concerning the double standard he was applying.
“Four hundred years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services,” de Blasio told Hamodia‘s Reuvain Borchardt.
The mayor wasn’t finished digging a hole.
“I’m going to tell you that anyone who thinks there are different rules for different people, again, is not trying very hard to see the reality,” de Blasio said, apparently unaware of the fact that he’d just created a different rule for protesters.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) was asked whether he was concerned about protestors disobeying his ban on large gatherings. “It’s one thing to protest what day nail salons are opening and it’s another to come out and peaceful protest about somebody who was murdered right before our eyes.”
Try telling that to business owners – including nail salon owners – who have lost their livelihoods while being shut down due to the governor’s closure orders. I’m not sure they’ll appreciate the distinction.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) has been criticized by President Trump for his COVID-related executive orders which put size limits on the Republican National Convention scheduled to be held in Charlotte later this summer. Yet Cooper personally joined hundreds of marchers in the streets this week, apparently even foregoing a mask at times.
As chameleon-like as the politicians have tended to be, they have a ways to go to outdo a group of over 1,200 self-identified “public health professionals, infectious diseases professionals, and community stakeholders” who signed an open letter “advocating for an anti-racist public health response to demonstrations against systemic injustice occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In other words, mass protests are okay in this case.
The letter explains that African Americans are more susceptible to COVID-19 for a host of reasons, including white supremacy. (“COVID-19 among Black patients is yet another lethal manifestation of white supremacy.”) Therefore, large throngs of people in the streets are justified.
The letter then lists a variety of suggestions for keeping rioters (sorry, I mean protesters) safe from COVID, including: police shouldn’t use teargas, as that irritates skin membranes and increases the risk of COVID infection; cops should keep their distance from protesters, and stay six feet apart from one another and wear masks. And they shouldn’t fall for messaging that protesters wearing masks are trying to disguise their identities. (Antifa, anyone?) The list goes on and on, and I encourage you to read it in full.
It’s not my intent here to belittle the importance of legitimate protest or the tragedy surrounding George Floyd’s death. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to “peaceably assemble” to demonstrate, and I support that right even during a pandemic.
What I am interested in learning the answer to is why some First Amendment conduct is apparently allowable and other conduct is not during a pandemic. Why is the Free Speech clause sacrosanct, but the Free Exercise clause suspended? Do the lines being drawn have any logical support, or are we at the whim of those in authority?
Why have politicians not only condoned but participated in large gatherings like protest marches, while closing churches and threatening pastors and parishioners with fines and jail sentences for wanting to worship together? And why are so-called “public health professionals” joining in the mixed messages being sent? Haven’t we spent the last few months pointing accusatory fingers at people who have supposedly not responded to the coronavirus threat properly, and yet here we are, creating a pandemic exception for protest marches?
The hypocrisy and double standards we are witnessing this week make me scratch my head.
Photo from Sam Wagner / Shutterstock.com