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The politics behind protests of stay-at-home orders

Officials at all levels of U.S. government are engaged in discussions about how and when to resume commerce and other activities. Polling data shows the majority of Americans support restrictions to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, but there have been some pockets of resistance against these measures. Yamiche Alcindor reports on the beliefs and the organizations driving the dissent.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    This debate over when to reopen, pitting economic concerns against public health, has now taken to the streets.

    Polling data shows the majority of Americans support restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But there have been some small pockets of protests against these measures.

    Our Yamiche Alcindor reports.

  • Protesters:

    Open Texas now!

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In the last two weeks, crowds of people protesting against stay-at-home orders have popped up across the country.

  • Protesters:

    USA! USA!

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Many say they are advocating for personal freedom amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Protesters:

    You can't close America!

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Some openly carry semiautomatic rifles. Others say they are there to support their local economies.

  • Protester:

    Liberate Colorado!

  • Protesters:

    Open our beaches! Open our beaches!

  • Woman:

    I'm not on house arrest. I refuse.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Small gatherings happened in at least 20 states, many at state capitols.

    Michigan has seen some of the biggest protests. In the city of Lansing, cars created a traffic jam.

    Abigail Censky is a reporter with WKAR Public Media in East Lansing, and is covering those protests.

  • Abigail Censky:

    For a lot of protesters I talked to, they were grappling with the fact that, you know, their counties may have 100 cases or so, and they're not really the center of the epidemic here in Michigan.

    So they're asking for regional- or industry-based exemptions for the places that are less affected in the state.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Censky says, at a recent protest, the majority of the nearly 4,000 people stayed in their cars. But a couple hundred did get out.

  • Abigail Censky:

    The people who got out of their cars near the capitol, that looked strikingly similar to a President Trump rally. And they were waving lots of "Keep America Great" flags and wearing "Make America Great Again" hats.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump has repeatedly voiced support for the protests. Last week, he tweeted, "Liberate" Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia."

    He says it is understandable that people want to see social distancing orders eased.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Well, these are people expressing their views. I see where they are. And I see the way they're working. They seem to be very responsible people to me. But it's — they have been treated a little bit rough.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Jane Coaston covers conservatism and the GOP at Vox. She says these protests aren't as organic as they seem.

  • Jane Coaston:

    That's not to say that people attending them don't also have strongly felt viewpoints about these stay-at-home orders and strongly felt viewpoints about the response to the coronavirus pandemic themselves.

    Both things can be true at once. But these protests are very much tied to groups and individuals with ties to both the Trump administration and to existing right-leaning organizations.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Some groups organizing the protests have ties to President Trump's reelection campaign and Republican donors like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

    According to The New York Times, a law firm that advises the Trump Organization is also representing members of a protest group in North Carolina.

    And there's some support from national groups, like FreedomWorks, which was involved in the beginnings of the Tea Party movement.

    The group's president says it is not organizing the protests, but it is helping organizers by training, building Web sites and doing social media outreach.

    It is also conducting polls and sharing that information with advisers on President Trump's economic task force.

  • Adam Brandon:

  • Adam Brandon:

    This is what they came up with it. And all we can do is assist it. There is no grand plan that we're sitting around with a map, saying, we need to have an event here or there.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In an Associated Press-NORC poll released Wednesday, only 12 percent of Americans said restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus go too far.

    A majority of Republicans also broadly support the restrictions. But there is a partisan divide. Republicans are about four times as likely as Democrats to say the measures go too far, 22 percent compared to 5 percent.

    Meanwhile, protesters continue to gather as the virus outbreak stretches on. Another demonstration is planned in Wisconsin Friday.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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