Gun-packing Virginians want lockdown axed – but they have to bite the bullet

Under blue Virginian skies it was like stepping back into pre coronavirus days.

People gathered around the majestic state capitol building – greeting each other with handshakes and back slapping hugs that reveal the guns they’re carrying in belt holsters.

Some are in army fatigues proudly carrying semi-automatic rifles.

As they gathered closely it was like social distancing never happened. They are protesters who want to voice their opposition to Virginia’s stay at home orders.

The restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 need to end, they say.

Protesters attempting to shut down the streets drive near the Virginia State Capitol on April 22, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. The protesters, who want the state re-opened for business, gathered to demonstrate against Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's "stay-at-home" order and restrictions on gatherings of 10 or more people due to the COVID-19 pandemic and claimed the restrictions are too excessive
Image:Many believe the dangers posed by coronavirus are just more lies from the media

Some congregate on the streets – others drive around the capitol building honking horns from cars emblazoned with banners that read “We Are All Essential Workers” and “Virginia Loves Workers”.

Other messages allude to perennial American issues like abortion and gun rights.

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This had the feel of many protests I’ve been to in the past.

It’s the same sentiment from people who are always ready to express their distrust in authority and what they see as government overreach.

Coronavirus: Infection numbers in real time

Coronavirus: Infection numbers in real time

Most people here are sceptical, if not outright dismissive, of the scientific advice being given by medical experts.

I put it to one man that if asymptomatic people return to work that could increase infection and death in others.

He tells me it was an “interesting”, “mysterious” hypothesis.

For many it’s all just more lies from the media – designed to strip away people’s rights.

There were perhaps hundreds in attendance while millions stayed at home.

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The polls say most Americans support restrictions staying in place. Most people know it’s the virus that will determine when normality can resume.

There are of course genuine concerns about job losses and economic recession. Any organic element to the protests is being seized upon by conservative groups – using their nationwide networks to co-ordinate gatherings – making the sentiment seem bigger than polls suggest.

They are being amplified by right wing media and the president himself.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the governor’s residence in St Paul, Minnesota, on Friday, April 17, to protest the state’s coronavirus-related lockdown measures, video shows.

Hundreds of people protest against the lockdown in Minnesota

After Fox News aired a protest, Donald Trump tweeted his support – echoing the “Liberate” states message – just a day after he issued measured guidelines about the cautious path states should take before reopening.

The experts say Virginia is in no position to do what these people are asking for while cases and deaths keep rising.

Like so much in America, coronavirus is now a partisan issue with more Democrats than Republicans feeling extremely concerned about it.

But this virus does not discriminate. With well over 40,000 deaths and numbers still rising – these people are going to have to wait.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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