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Protesters Across The Country Demand COVID-19 Restrictions Be Lifted


Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Colorado state Capitol in Denver yesterday. They demanded the governor lift the state's stay-at-home order and allow Colorado's economy to reopen in spite of the coronavirus. Here is Deesa Hurt speaking to Colorado Public Radio.

DEESA HURT: I'm watching businesses close. I'm watching friends lose their incomes and their livelihoods. And we just want to reopen Colorado. That's all we want.

GREENE: Now, there have been similar public rallies in state capitals across the country. President Trump supports the protesters, saying the governors of some states have gone, quote, "too far."

Let's bring in NPR's Joel Rose, who has been following all this. Hi, Joel.


GREENE: Can you tell us more about what these protests have been like?

ROSE: Yeah. The protest in Denver yesterday was fairly typical. There were several hundred protesters on the hillside in front of the state capitol. Some of them were wearing masks and standing more than 6 feet apart, but many of them were not. There were also lots of protesters inside their cars honking in solidarity with those out on the hillside. And the protesters say these social distancing measures in Colorado and elsewhere are an infringement on personal freedom and an economic hardship for a lot of people.

GREENE: I mean - and if you're the governor of one of these states, Joel, you've got the White House sort of saying, you know, that dangers remain with this pandemic and a lot of difficult decisions have to be made but the president seeming to support these protests at this moment. How are the governors dealing with all this?

ROSE: The governors say they are also frustrated because they also want to reopen the economies of their states, too. But they are balancing that, as you say, against limiting the spread of the coronavirus and trying to save lives. The governors say they want to see data that the number of cases in their states is falling for at least two weeks. They also say they need more testing capacity before they start to relax these social distancing measures. Otherwise, the governors are worried that this virus will simply rebound as soon as these stay-at-home orders are lifted and could overwhelm hospitals if a lot of people get sick all at once.

And I should also note that polling shows a majority of Americans continue to support these stay-at-home orders.

GREENE: Where are these protests starting? I mean, they've been happening in some political battleground states, right? Is there some national coordinating going on?

ROSE: To some extent there is, yeah. There are parallels to the beginning of the Tea Party a decade ago according to some people who've studied that movement. I talked to Theda Skocpol. She's a professor at Harvard and the co-author of a new book "Upending American Politics." She told me that the anger and the frustration behind these protests are real but that they are also being orchestrated at the national level by some of the same conservative organizations that played a big role in the rise of the Tea Party.

THEDA SKOCPOL: They're sending cues to local activists that now's a good time to get out there and make a fuss. But I lean towards saying that, right now, this is pretty engineered and pretty intended to create a media spectacle - that it's not some kind of organic wave.

ROSE: And if you look closely at the Facebook pages and the websites of these local activist groups, you can see there's virtually identical language in some cases. Also, we've heard strikingly similar talking points from activists across the country at rallies in different states.

GREENE: We should say - you've talked to some of these national conservative groups, right?

ROSE: I did. I talked to the president of the group FreedomWorks, which is a conservative group. Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks. And he said, yes, these protests do share a lot of the same DNA as the Tea Party, that many of these events have organizers who have been trained and have come up through the FreedomWorks network and that FreedomWorks is giving them advice - although he emphasized FreedomWorks is not actually hosting these events. But Brandon says it is time to start talking about how we're going to live with the coronavirus and restart our economy. He says these protests are helping to push that conversation along.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Joel Rose for us this morning. Joel, thanks.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.