This is an excerpt of a Daily Kos guest column, originally published on April 27, 2020.
Almost exactly a month ago, I raised the alarm about the increase in incivility against Asians and Asian Americans, provoked in part by President Trump’s use of “China Virus” or “Chinese Virus” to describe COVID-19. The FBI has since warned that a wave of hate crimes against people perceived to be Asian or Asian-American is under way.
Now, this incivility has turned towards our healthcare workers and government officials.
It began nearly two weeks ago, as people began protesting outside of government buildings demanding that states reopen. Resentment has been building about stay-at-home orders since early March, encouraged by conservative media and some government officials – including President Trump.
On April 16, Trump announced new guidelines from his administration on how states should lift stay-in-place orders to restart the economy, titled “Opening Up America Again.”
“Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we’re calling, “Opening Up America Again.” And that’s what we’re doing: We’re opening up our country. And we have to do that. America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open. As I have said for some time now, a national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution. To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy.”
The guidelines outline a phased process that governors would lead based on their specific circumstances. This came days after Trump claimed he had “ultimate authority” to reopen states, as governors across the east and west coasts vowed to not reopen their states until the pandemic subsides.
The next day, Trump flipped his script. Several small protests had popped up across the country against the stay-at-home orders. That morning, Fox News aired a segment about a group called “Liberate Minnesota,” which planned to protest the state’s stay-at-home order outside of the governor’s house.
Minutes later, Trump tweeted,
“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” followed by “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINA, and save your great 2nd amendment. It is under siege!”
This apparent endorsement of the protests, in direct violation of public health guidelines issued by Trump’s own administration, was seen by some as a signal. Far-right extremists believed Trump’s tweets were a call for armed conflict, an event referred to as “the boogaloo.” The term “Boogaloo,” shorthand for “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” had been documented in February of this year as a new and growing movement of far-right extremists calling for a new Civil War. Hours after the president’s “Liberate” tweets, more than 1,000 tweets were posted using the term “Boogaloo.”
And, in fact, the 2nd Amendment was not under attack by any governmental or political leader. But protesters took the cue and began showing up in public heavily armed, including with semi-automatic assault weapons.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee immediately recognized the threat posed by Trump’s tweets:
“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.”
“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.”
Over the next several days, anti-lockdown protests spread across the country, with large crowds gathering outside of government buildings and governors’ homes, many without wearing masks and bearing homemade signs such as “COVID-19 is a lie” and “Social distancing = communism.” Many protestors wore MAGA hats. Some protestors carried weapons, flew Nazi and confederate flags, and shouted phrases typically heard during Trump rallies.
Read full guest column here.