President Donald Trump urged supporters to ‘LIBERATE’ three states led by Democratic governors Friday, apparently encouraging the growing protests against the stay-at-home restrictions aimed at stopping the coronavirus.
A day after laying out a roadmap to gradually reopen the crippled economy, Trump took to Twitter with the kind of rhetoric some of his supporters have used in demanding the lifting of the orders that have thrown millions of Americans out of work.
‘LIBERATE MINNESOTA!’ ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN!’ ‘LIBERATE VIRGINIA,’ he said in a tweet-storm in which he also lashed out at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for criticizing the federal response.
Several hundred protesters defied social distancing guidelines and gathered outside Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’ official residence in St. Paul on Friday demanding an end to the statewide coronavirus lockdown
Several hundred protesters gather outside Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’ official residence in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday
Some of the protesters were cautious and stayed in their vehicles while others gathered in defiance of social distancing orders
Cuomo ‘should spend more time “doing” and less time “complaining”,’ the president said.
Responding to pleas from governors for help from Washington in ramping up testing for the virus, Trump put the burden back on them: ‘The States have to step up their TESTING!’
Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to see businesses reopen quickly and claimed earlier this week that he possesses total authority over the matter, even though the lockdowns and other social-distancing measures have been imposed by state and local leaders, not Washington.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said on Friday that Trump’s comments about ‘liberating’ parts of the country from coronavirus stay-at-home orders put millions of Americans at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Some of the protesters wore masks while others did not, and very few practiced social distancing in St. Paul on Friday
One of the protesters unfurled a large banner featuring Trump’s image superimposed on the American flag in St. Paul on Friday
Several of the protesters stayed in their vehicles and drove outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul on Friday
A cardboard cutout of Donald Trump is propped up outside the Minnesota governor’s official residence in St. Paul on Friday
One protester holds a sign which reads ‘Be like Sweden’ while another called the coronavirus pandemic a ‘fake crisis’
The protesters are seen crowded together in violation of social distancing regulations in St. Paul on Friday
A mock skeleton is attached to the fence as protesters gathered outside Walz’ official residence on Friday
One protester wearing a mask holds two signs which read ‘Stop the Shutdown’ and ‘The models are wrong’
Health officials and medical experts said that reopening the economy too soon could lead to another spike in coronavirus cases
Other protesters hold signs which read ‘Free the humans’ and ‘We want to work’ in St. Paul on Friday
One sign attached to the fence outside the Minnesota governor’s residence reads ‘Treat us like free Americans’
Another protester holds a sign which reads ‘My husband didn’t serve 16 years in the military for tyranny!’
One protester holds a sign which reads ‘You do not have the right to decide what is essential for us!’
‘Freedom over fear! Open MN Now,’ reads another sign attached to the fence of the governor’s residence in St. Paul on Friday
Trump banners and an American flag with Trump’s likeness superimposed on it are waved in St. Paul on Friday
Other protesters demanded that the governor, a Democrat, ‘vacate now’ and that he was ‘not essential’
One sign attached to the fence outside the governor’s residence compares Walz to Adolf Hitler
One family is seen above holding several signs on the back of a pickup truck in St. Paul. ‘God gave us an immune system for a reason’ and ‘Our constitutional rights are essential’ read the signs
Inslee, a Democrat, said in a statement that Trump is encouraging ‘illegal and dangerous acts.’
‘His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before,’ Inslee said.
‘The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly.’
Washington State saw the nation’s first confirmed coronavirus case in January, as well as the first deadly cluster at a Seattle-area nursing home.
More than 11,150 people in Washington state have tested positive for the virus and more than 580 have died.
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover.
But it is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear healthy and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
In Huntington Beach, California, around 100 demonstrators defied the state’s stay-at-home orders and gathered in downtown to protest the continued lockdown.
The protest, which was organized through social media, included people holding signs which read ‘Live free or die.’
Some of the protesters periodically erupted in chants of ‘USA! USA!’ while motorists driving by honked their horns in support, The Orange County Register reported.
A young girl is seen above cheering and waving small American flags as she peers out from the roof of a truck in St. Paul on Friday
A man wearing a red pro-Trump hat attends a demonstration in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday
Jason Lewis, a Republican candidate for the US Senate seat from Minnesota, shakes hands with protesters from his RV
A man rolls his car down Summit Avenue in St. Paul on Friday during the ‘Liberate Minnesota’ protest outside the official residence of Governor Walz
A woman leans out the window of her truck to take a selfie with fellow protesters during the ‘Liberate Minnesota’ protest in St. Paul on Friday
The crowd of protesters cheers as an American flag with the president’s likeness is unfurled during the demonstration in St. Paul on Friday
A woman above drives on a scooter while wearing a helmet designed to look like the coronavirus on Friday
A supporter of the Democratic governor confronts protesters who oppose the coronavirus lockdown in St. Paul on Friday
Another supporter of the governor holds a sign which reads ‘GR8 FULL 4 R Governor’ in St. Paul on Friday
Another protester inside a car sticks out a sign which reads ‘Don’t cancel my golf season’ during the demonstration in St. Paul on Friday
A St. Paul police officer leans back against his vehicle during the demonstration in the state capital on Friday
One protester (right) holds a sign which read ‘If ballots don’t free us bullets will!’ during the demonstration in St. Paul on Friday
A protester (right) wears a jacket with an emblazoned American flag on the back during the demonstration in St. Paul on Friday
An estimated 400 people attended the rally outside the governor’s official residence in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday
A man dressed in colonial style clothing waves a flag in the air and blows an airhorn from the back of a truck
A man wearing a t-shirt with a pro-gun rights message holds an American flag during the protest in St. Paul on Friday
‘Our freedom has been taken away from us, people are locked in their homes,’ Nicole Brown, a 50-year-old resident of Costa Mesa, told the Register.
Brown said that while she sympathized with those who fell ill with COVID-19, she believed that quarantining should be optional rather than mandated by the state.
Some of the protesters waved pro-Trump banners while another wore a mock white medical suit and held a sign calling coronavirus a ‘lie.’
In Frankfort, Kentucky, a caravan-style protest was held as drivers drove around the state capitol denouncing Governor Andy Beshear’s stay-at-home orders.
Protesters, whose ‘drive-thru’ protest was in line with social distancing orders imposed by the state, told WKYT-TV that the governor’s decision to shut down commerce was unconstitutional.
‘When they started collecting license plate numbers that was one step too far,’ said Brett Beaderson, one of the protesters.
‘And seeing what is happening in Michigan and other states, he needs to have some liberty pressure on him.’
TOP TEN SIGNS FROM ‘LIBERATE MINNESOTA’ PROTEST IN ST. PAUL
1. Don’t cancel my golf season
2. I need a haircut
3. Be Like Sweden
4. God gave us an immune system for a reason
5. Walz has no ballz
6. Free the humans
7. Moms s*** at teaching
8. Every business is essential
9. Me after quarantine (skeleton)
10. Facts not fear
Beaderson referred to Beshear’s order banning gatherings of more than 10 people during Easter Sunday.
Beshear said that state officials would enforce the ban by collecting license plate numbers of local residents who attended church services in violation of stay-at-home orders.
Dozens of people protesting Oregon’s stay-at-home order drove around the state Capitol on Friday, horns blaring, and a lawmaker asked the governor to ease restrictions for medical procedures for non-coronavirus patients.
The protest at the Capitol in Salem was one of several happening across the country this week as conservatives push back against virus-related restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
State Rep. Cheri Helt, a moderate Republican from Bend, credited Governor Kate Brown for imposing the stay-at-home order and social distancing.
But she said in a letter it’s time to ‘slowly and carefully begin lifting regulations that have essentially shut down access to health care and medical procedures in Central Oregon for anything unrelated to COVID-19.’
Helt noted that the order has affected the health care industry and patients who must wait for procedures.
Some hospitals in Oregon have seen revenue decline as much as 60 per cent in a month, Becky Hultberg, CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said recently.
Meanwhile the Oregon Health Authority reported six new COVID-19 deaths Friday for a total of 70 in the state.
State officials also reported 49 new cases, increasing to 1,785 the total number of people statewide who have tested positive for the disease.
Organizers said the Salem rally was aimed at getting their constitutional rights back and getting Oregonians back to work, KEZI-TV reported.
Brown issued an order for Oregonians to stay home starting March 23 and banned non-essential gatherings and travel after crowds descended on the state’s beach towns and hiking trails the previous weekend.
Protesters outside the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, drive around on Friday
Several protesters waved American flags and brandished banners in favor of Trump during the protest in Salem on Friday
These protesters are seen outside the State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, on Friday during a demonstration
Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, is under pressure to lift restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus
Brown said earlier this week that she won’t reopen Oregon’s economy or ease restrictions until she sees a declining rate of active virus cases and public health data suggesting a return to normalcy is safe.
Also on Friday, Brown signed an executive order to prevent creditors or debt collectors from garnishing federal coronavirus aid bill payments.
‘Many Oregonians, through no fault of their own, are struggling to pay their bills, their rent, or even buy essentials like groceries and prescription drugs,’ Brown said in a news release.
‘These recovery checks were meant to provide relief, not reward debt collection agencies for preying on Oregonians who have lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.’
Additionally, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that the coronavirus has so far infected 10 people who live or work in state-funded homes for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
The disease has struck one person in 10 separate homes: a foster home for children, three foster homes for adults and six adult group homes, according to data state officials provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
The homes are in southern Oregon, with one case each in Jackson and Klamath counties, in the Willamette Valley, with four cases in Marion, Lane and Linn counties, and in the Portland area, with four infected homes in Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties.
On Thursday, the president detailed a three-step set of guidelines for easing restrictions over a span of several weeks in places that have robust testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, assuring the nation’s governors: ‘You’re going to call your own shots.’
Governors of both parties Friday suggested they would be cautious in returning to normal, with some of them warning that they can’t do it without help from Washington to expand testing.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has been critical of the government’s response to the crisis, acknowledged that people are ‘very anxious’ about their livelihoods and worried about paying the rent when they are out of work.
‘But the last thing I want to do is to have a second wave here, so we’ve got to be really smart,’ she said.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican ally of Trump’s, endorsed the White House plan but made clear that he will listen to medical experts in deciding how to move forward.
He said more testing is needed before any restrictions can be rolled back.
Some protesters hold signs which read ‘Re-Open Florida’ and ‘Everyone’s Essential’ in Orlando on Friday
The protests in Orlando were condemned by local leaders who accused the crowd of endangering themselves and others during a pandemic
Several protesters wave American flags and banners in support of President Trump during a demonstration in Orlando on Friday
A truck supporting protesters demanding Florida businesses and government reopen honks at a gathering in downtown Orlando on Friday
Small-government groups, supporters of President Donald Trump, anti-vaccine advocates, gun rights backers and supporters of right-wing causes have united behind a deep suspicion of efforts to shut down daily life to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Protesters are seen above in downtown Orlando on Friday
One protester holds a sign which reads ‘Practice media distancing’ in Orlando on Friday
A woman wears an American flag-themed bandanna during a protest in Orlando, Florida, on Friday
‘I am not going to do something that I feel in my heart is the wrong thing that´s going to endanger our people,’ he said.
Other states did take some of the nation’s first, small steps toward loosening restrictions.
In Florida, GOP Governor Ron DeSantis gave the green light for municipalities to reopen beaches and parks if they can do so safely.
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott said stores can begin selling curbside, nonessential surgery can resume and state parks can reopen.
Cuomo, whose state is the most lethal hot spot in the nation and is still seeing over 600 deaths a day, accused the government of ‘passing the buck without passing the bucks.’
‘The federal government cannot wipe its hands of this and say, “Oh, the states are responsible for testing.”
‘We cannot do it. We cannot do it without federal help,’ he said.
Even in largely rural states with small populations, like Wyoming, Maine and South Dakota, governors said they were not anxious to quickly resume business as usual.
‘Until we’ve got the testing up to speed – which has got to be part of the federal government stepping in and helping – we’re just not going to be there,’ said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, a Republican.
Worldwide, the outbreak has infected nearly 2.2 million people and killed over 145,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally based on figures supplied by government health authorities around the globe, though it has becoming increasingly clear that the true numbers are much higher.
The official death toll in the US neared 34,000, with more than 670,000 confirmed infections.
The shutdowns have inflicted heavy damage on economies around the world. In the US, the crisis has cost at least 22 millions Americans their jobs, pushing the unemployment rate toward levels not seen since the Great Depression.
Many Americans, especially in rural areas and other parts of the country that have not seen major outbreaks, have urged governors to reopen their economies.
A group of about 100 protesters gathered in downtown Huntington Beach, California, on Friday to protest the state’s stay-at-home orders
The protest was organized through social media and included people waving Trump banners on Friday
One of the protesters holds a sign which reads ‘Liberate Huntington Beach!’ on Friday
Several motorists who were driving by the protest honked in support while police officers were on the scene
Protesters have taken to the streets in Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Michigan, where more than 3,000 turned out on Wednesday in what looked like one of the president’s rallies, with MAGA hats and Trump flags.
Protests continued Friday, including one outside the home of Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota and another in Idaho, where the governor is a Republican.
Grassroots Trump supporters organized the protest under the theme ‘Liberate Minnesota.’
It was one of several taking place across the country this week as conservatives push back against restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
At least 400 people gathered outside the mansion on Summit Avenue to demand relief. Many wore pro-Trump gear.
Very few practiced social distancing or wore masks. Dozens carried American flags or signs bearing messages such as ‘Reopen MN.’
Others drove past in vehicles bearing signs against the restrictions.
Republican US Senate candidate Jason Lewis, who has made reopening businesses a focus of his campaign to unseat Democratic Senator Tina Smith, expressed support for the protesters as he made several passes past the mansion in his campaign RV.
Trump tweeted ‘LIBERATE MINNESOTA!’ along with similar tweets for Michigan and Virginia, one day after he gave governors a road map for recovering from the economic pain of the public health crisis.
The guidelines make clear that a return to normalcy will take far longer than Trump initially envisioned, and let governors call the shots.
Walz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the protest and tweets.
He recently extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 4.
He has said the state needs to significantly expand its testing capacity before it can begin relaxing restrictions, despite increasing pressure from Republicans to move quickly.
The number of people infected with the coronavirus has climbed by 159 to 2,071, while 17 new fatalities have raised the state’s death toll to 111, the Minnesota Department of Health reported.
As of Friday, 223 patients were hospitalized – 10 more than Thursday – and 106 of them were in intensive care, an increase of three.
But 1,066 patients have recovered and no longer need isolation.
Trump’s tweet got a ‘thank you’ tweet from Lewis, as he kicked off a ‘Re-Open Minnesota for Business’ tour of the state Friday.
The former congressman and talk radio host says he wants the economy to reopen while protecting the vulnerable.
He plans to visit small business owners at their shuttered locations across the state in the coming weeks.
A caravan-style protest was staged outside the state capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, on Friday
Motorists circled the capitol and denounced the state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear. One anti-abortion protester drove by with a sign attached to their vehicle in Frankfort on Friday
‘Let us work,’ one sign displayed from inside a vehicle in Frankfort read on Friday
A Kentucky state trooper is seen above looking on at the motorcade protest outside the capitol in Frankfort on Friday
Another motorist who took part in the protest attached a sign to their vehicle which read ‘It’s about liberty’ in Frankfort on Friday
Another motorist demanded that the governor ‘open Kentucky back up!’ in Frankfort on Friday
The governor announced strict stay-at-home measures and enforcement policies throughout the state due to the coronavirus pandemic
Another motorist holds up a sign which read ‘Let us work!’ while driving around the capitol in Frankfort on Friday
Walz loosened some restrictions Friday by signing an executive order that allows residents to golf, boat, fish, hunt and hike as long as they follow new outdoor recreation guidelines: maintain six feet of social distancing; avoid crowded areas; and stay close to home.
Businesses that could reopen starting Saturday include golf courses, bait shops, marinas and outdoor shooting ranges.
Campgrounds, recreational equipment retail and rental stores, charter boats and guided fishing remain closed.
Public health experts have warned that an easing of the shutdowns must be accompanied by wider testing and tracing of infected people to keep the virus from coming back with a vengeance.
The clash between Trump and Cuomo was personal, with the president complaining the governor hasn’t said thanks for the help he has received from Washington.
Cuomo countered by saying: ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, send a bouquet of flowers? “Thank you to the federal government for participating in a federal emergency”.’
Meanwhile, China, confirming long-held suspicions, acknowledged that the coronavirus death toll in the one-time epicenter city of Wuhan was nearly 50% higher than reported, amounting to more than 4,600.
In Italy, Spain, Britain, the United States and elsewhere, similar doubts emerged as governments revised their death tolls or openly questioned the accuracy of them.
Authorities said that almost everywhere, thousands have died with COVID-19 symptoms – many in nursing homes – without being tested for the virus, and have thus gone uncounted.
‘We are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg,’ said Barcelona University epidemiologist Antoni Trilla, who heads the Spanish government’s expert panel on the crisis.
In Italy, for example, where the official toll has climbed past 22,000, a government survey released Friday of about one-third of the country’s nursing homes found more than 6,000 residents have died since February 1.
It was unclear how many were a result of COVID-19.
In Britain, with an official count of about 14,600 dead, the country´s statistics agency said the actual number could be around 15 per cent higher.
Others think it will be far more.
The official death toll in New York City soared by more than half earlier this week when health authorities began including people who probably had COVID-19 but died without being tested.
Nearly 3,800 deaths were added to the city´s count.
‘There is a general feeling that the epidemiologists don’t have a clue of what’s going on, that experts know even less and that governments are concealing information, but I don’t think that’s true,’ said Hermelinda Vanaclocha, an epidemiologist on Spain’s top virus advisory panel.
‘It’s simply not easy.’
Such figures can have a huge influence on governments’ actions, as medical staffs struggle to figure out how to cope with surges of sick people and officials make crucial decisions about where to devote resources and how to begin easing lockdowns to resuscitate their economies.