The incessant clang of car horns rang out in the US state of Pennsylvania Monday as hundreds of vehicles circled the Capitol building in a protest against confinement measures aimed at combatting the coronavirus.
During the rally that lasted about three hours, many drove pick-up trucks decorated with American flags or slogans like “shelter in place isn’t freedom!”
The Harrisburg demonstrators, arguing that public health regulations unduly threaten economic freedom, gathered after similar protests elsewhere in the country and President Donald Trump tweeted apparent support for the last week.
Among Monday’s protest organizers were a trio of conservative pro-gun activist brothers who have instigated anti-quarantine demonstrations throughout the United States.
But the demonstrators remain on the margins in a country where polls show majority support stay-at-home measures to fight the pandemic.
Along with the vehicles protesting, hundreds of people — most of them mask-free despite the threat of the virus — gathered at the steps of the statehouse. They carried signs decrying damage caused to the economy due to confinement measures or accusing the governor, Tom Wolf, of using the virus as an excuse to grab powers.
Among those rallying were Republican congressional representatives.
State lawmaker Aaron Bernstine said, “our new normal does not mean we will sacrifice our freedoms for the safety of our country.”
“U-S-A!” chants punctuated his speech — reminiscent of Trump rallies, which are currently suspended due to the pandemic. The virus has infected more than 33,000 people and killed in excess of 1,300 in the eastern state of Pennsylvania
The United States is the global epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 41,000 people dead.
Yet, echoing Trump, some lawmakers like Representative Russ Diamond say the “cure” — ordering or urging residents to stay home — could be “worse than the disease.”
“End this shutdown now!” Diamond said at the rally.
Anita Livelsberger, one of the few demonstrators wearing a mask, traveled from a town about a half-hour outside the city “to support the president” and “because they have to re-open or small businesses will die.”
The poll indicates that nearly 70 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Democrats would back such a measure.
Troy Thompson, a local government spokesman, acknowledged the frustrations over the slowed economy — but emphasized that “public health is the primary focus here.” –AFP