[WSMDiscuss] [Debate-List] US : Armed protesters demand end to Michigan coronavirus lockdown

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Sat May 2 17:26:54 CEST 2020

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Fayyaz, sorry to say this but I’m disappointed to see you seeming to dismiss what is happening in the US with a one-liner like this, and especially by dismissing those who are involved as “lunatics”.  It’s just far too easy for us on ‘the left’ – and on the armchair left - to do this. 

            I’m not sure if your comment was a response specifically to the article which you ‘replied’ to, or to my original post, but as the article said :

Defenders of the current political order will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect wealth and privilege. They understand that to address the enormity of the economic crisis would upend the neoliberal consensus of this second Gilded Age, which has greatly enriched a few while systematically dismantling public goods, disempowering workers, and diminishing democratic rule. Their hope is that enough Americans go along with this resistance, even if it kills them.  [Highlights given]

            I think we too need – and urgently – to recognise the enormity of what is happening, both as a result of the pandemic and as the para above says, the threat this poses to the neoliberal consensus and global rule, but also the reactions that are rising, and within their own logic, understandably so.  And take it seriously.

            (Indeed, if we are at all looking at the crisis as a portal through which we can bring about change – above and beyond what it itself is forcing – then we too, by definition, need to view what is unfolding, in all its dimensions (and including this, and the rise of division and discrimination everywhere, with the greatest seriousness.)

            I’m posting here another article, this one coming from Canada, viewing what is happening in the US from a neighbouring country that is seriously worried about the way things are unravelling for the elephant on Turtle Island – and about the effects of this on its own existence and future…  which we should also take very seriously.

Thanks, Toussaint Losier, for your response and the article you posted. Very helpful :

A state in crisis : Michigan’s divisions magnified by virus

Politics and class collide as COVID-19 crisis exposes fault-lines in Michigan

Adrian Morrow <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/authors/adrian-morrow/>
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/us-politics/article-politics-and-class-collide-as-covid-19-crisis-exposes-fault-lines-in/ <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/us-politics/article-politics-and-class-collide-as-covid-19-crisis-exposes-fault-lines-in/>

Armed protesters provide security as demonstrators take part in an 'American Patriot Rally,' organized on April 30, 2020, by Michigan United for Liberty on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, demanding the reopening of businesses. Some protesters later tried to storm the floor of the House chamber, but were held back by police.  (JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

When Gary Fowler developed breathing problems in late March, he went to three Detroit hospitals seeking treatment for COVID-19. But they turned him away, his stepson Keith Gambrell said, telling the 56-year-old security company supervisor to take care of himself at home. Mr. Fowler’s condition ultimately got so bad that he could not lie down, and took to sleeping in an armchair in his bedroom. He died there on the morning of April 7.

“He couldn’t breathe and they barely looked at him,” Mr. Gambrell said in an interview. “They’re sending people to go home to die.”

Coronavirus is hitting Michigan hard: Its 3,800 deaths are the third-most in the country, behind only New York and New Jersey, and the crisis is casting a harsh glare on the state’s racial and class divides. African-Americans, including Mr. Fowler, account for 40 per cent of deaths but only 14 per cent of the population. The outbreak is centred on Detroit, the country’s largest city with a black-majority population, and one of its poorest.

The pandemic’s politics are also particularly caustic in the state. Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has faced opposition to her stay-at-home order from the Republican-controlled legislature and the local business lobby. Right-wing groups, including some connected to President Donald Trump’s circle, have organized furious protests at the state capitol in Lansing, at which demonstrators have waved Confederate battle flags and carried semi-automatic rifles.

This week, legislators voted to roll back Ms. Whitmer’s authority to fight the pandemic, a move the Governor vowed to veto. Anti-shutdown protesters tried to storm the floor of the House chamber, and were held back by police. Several brought guns into the public gallery overlooking the Senate. On the lawn of the building, demonstrators held signs reading “tyrants get the rope” and describing Ms. Whitmer as a “witch.”

Senator Dayna Polehanki, a Democrat, said the protests were a deliberate effort to tarnish the Governor for Mr. Trump’s benefit. Ms. Whitmer is a vice-presidential prospect, and Michigan a must-win swing state in November; the President’s 11,000-vote victory there was key to his 2016 election.

“It’s coming from the top. I think people see that she’s extremely popular, and most people are following her orders,” Ms. Polehanki said.

One group opposing the stay-at-home order, the Michigan Freedom Fund, is partly financed by the family of Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s Secretary of Education. Another, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, is run by Meshawn Maddock, an adviser to the President’s re-election campaign.

A Navigator poll this week found 65 per cent of respondents approved of Ms. Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic, compared with just 43 per cent who said the same for Mr. Trump.

Ashley Phibbs of Michigan United for Liberty, one of the organizers of this week’s protest, said she believed that ordering people to stay home would cause more problems than the pandemic.

“A lot of people are still scared right now. They don’t even want to leave their house at all, they don’t want to go outside for a walk, and that hurts your immune system,” she said.

Asked if her group believed it was appropriate for protesters to brandish Confederate flags and reference hanging, Ms. Phibbs said, “No, we do not,” but that “we do, however, support their right to exercise their inherent rights.”

Mr. Gambrell said such symbolism was not coincidental.

“As soon as the news said the coronavirus is mostly hitting black and brown people, everyone else wanted to open the country back up,” he said. “What does the Confederate flag have to do with you not being able to go golfing or go to the store? What does the AR-15 [rifle] have anything to do with the economy?”

Jamon Jordan said his 66-year-old mother, Jacquelynne Jordan, couldn’t get a coronavirus test in March, despite having diabetes and high blood pressure. When she called the hospital, he said, they advised her to self-quarantine at home. She died four days later.

“This is a failure all over the country, but a more severe failure in large, predominantly black cities like Detroit,” said Mr. Jordan, who runs African-American history tours of the city. “There is almost an acceptance of black sickness.”

Despite this dire picture, some business groups are lobbying for physical-distancing measures to be lifted or loosened.

Rich Studley, chief executive officer of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, argued that Ms. Whitmer’s stay-at-home order should exempt factories and construction sites that can put physical-distancing measures in place. Michigan residents, he said, could be trusted to take precautions voluntarily.

“The Governor’s onerous statewide lockdown order has thrown hundreds of thousands of Michiganders out of work unnecessarily,” he said. “Do you have confidence in Michigan residents to exercise good judgment … or do you lack confidence in everyday folks?”

Some of the state’s iconic manufacturers, meanwhile, are biding their time by transforming assembly lines to produce medical equipment. General Motors, for instance, has made nearly a million surgical masks at a transmission plant north of Detroit. About 120 GM employees are working on the project.

Monte Duran, a GM spokesman, said the company has no firm idea of when normal production could return.

“On one hand, you want to resume production, and we all would like to get back to work,” he said. “On the other hand, we absolutely do not want to do it too soon.”

Also an open question is how all of this will play out politically.

Jenna Bednar, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, said Ms. Whitmer’s refusal to bend to the protests could help her standing by making her look decisive. But voters outside of the Detroit area could look negatively on her party if they believe she overreacted to the crisis.

“In South-East Michigan, people are questioning where the federal government is at in all of this,” Prof. Bednar said. “In the rest of the state, they’re waiting for the economy to reopen.”

> On May 1, 2020, at 10:43 AM, Fayyaz Baqir <fbaqir at uottawa.ca> wrote:
> Death wish is common among the people on lunatic fringes. 
> From: WSM-Discuss <wsm-discuss-bounces at lists.openspaceforum.net> on behalf of Toussaint Losier via WSM-Discuss <wsm-discuss at lists.openspaceforum.net>
> Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2020 10:49 PM
> To: Jai Sen <jai.sen at cacim.net>
> Cc: Toussaint Losier <toussaint.losier at gmail.com>; Post WSMDiscuss <wsm-discuss at lists.openspaceforum.net>; Post Crisis of Civilisation and Alternative Paradigms <crisis-de-civilizacion-y-paradigmas-alternativos at googlegroups.com>; Post Social Movements Riseup <social-movements at lists.riseup.net>; Post Debate <Debate-list at fahamu.org>; Post RED <radical_ecological_democracy at googlegroups.com>
> Subject: Re: [WSMDiscuss] [Debate-List] US : Armed protesters demand end to Michigan coronavirus lockdown
> Attention : courriel externe | external email
> Here is some useful analysis of what is transpiring here
> https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america <https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america>
> The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America
> The right has mobilized a small army of true believers willing to die in the defense of a less just world.
> By JOE LOWNDES <https://newrepublic.com/authors/joe-lowndes>
> April 30, 2020
> Add to Pocket <https://getpocket.com/edit?url=https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america>
> Photos of the small “reopen America” protests, which have made the rounds on social media over the past week, have revealed a spectacle as cartoonish as it is macabre: a rogue’s gallery of right-wing groups coming together to share in the spirit of defiance and, presumably, tiny droplets of mucus and saliva. The protests (and their backing by deep-pocketed funders) invited many comparisons to the Tea Party movement of a decade ago. Unlike that movement, these small protests are likely to die out soon. Nevertheless, they have captured something vitally important about how the right is responding to this fraught moment in our recent history.
> Give Me Meat and Give Them Death
>  <https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america#>
> Don’t Let Larry Summers Block Climate Progress Again
>  <https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america#>
> The Supreme Court Eyes an Escape Hatch From Trump’s Corruption
>  <https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america#>
> Joe Biden’s Tired Feminist Shield
>  <https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america#>
> A Woman’s Worth in a Pandemic 
>  <https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america#>
> As jobless claims have soared past an astonishing 26 million with no end in sight, the Covid-19 pandemic may well push the United States into a profound and long-lasting economic crisis. The countless indices of human misery will put enormous pressure on political institutions that are ill-equipped to respond adequately. The onset of this immiseration has begun to propel bold ideas and movements from the left to demand a reorganization of the economy and a fundamental shift in political power. But the right is swiftly establishing its own morbid template for how to interpret and respond to both the pandemic and its economic effects.
> Republican politicians and right-wing pundits endlessly echo a central claim: “The cure is worse than the disease.” In other words, you can either risk dying from the virus or face certain economic ruin, as if there are no other choices. Their hope is that people already conditioned by an ideology centered on the marketplace, the individual, and the nation will be more likely to believe that their lives and livelihoods are under greater threat from state-ordered economic shutdowns and coercive social measures than they are from the disease. For them, the idea that Covid-19 could ultimately be overcome–even if at great human cost–by working and shopping is more appealing, and even more imaginable, than a new politics of mutuality that might redistribute power and resources in an egalitarian way.  
> The Covid-19 pandemic amplifies political feelings around health care, race, and class that have been growing on the right over the last decade. Recall the Tea Party’s origins during the Great Recession. The movement emerged and quickly grew in response to first the election of a black president and then that president’s proposed health care plan, as protesters mobbed town halls across the summer of 2009, loudly declaiming against any form of socialized medical coverage. Those two animating features of the movement—anti-black racism and opposition to the Affordable Care Act—defined a movement that in essence chose investments in whiteness over the assurance of at least some semblance of health care.
> This was followed in the 2016 election by a Republican candidate who surged among voters who had high levels of racial resentment, strong feelings of political powerlessness, and growing economic anxiety (regardless of income level). Donald Trump, who titled his campaign memoir Crippled America, reveled in such terms as “disgust,” “weakness,” “losing,” and “pathetic” to describe the country. He poked at the vulnerability of whites like a finger in a wound all while demonizing Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, black protesters, and foreign rivals. All of this set the stage for how the right would come to respond to the current pandemic. 
> The rhetorical oppositions of work to welfare, self-reliance to dependence, individual to state, citizen to foreigner—oppositions animated by race, gender, and class—run deep in American political culture. All are reflected in the politics of the pandemic right now, making for a grim political vision of American freedom. 
> TNR Newsletters. Must reads. 5 days a week.
> Sign Up Now <https://mailchi.mp/61665a30a33b/tnrdaily>
> In a basic way, this vision of freedom is conveyed by the defiance of guidelines to stop the spread of the virus. It isn’t just the protesters. The dozen or so Republicans in the House of Representatives refusing to wear masks <https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/23/coronavirus-congress-feuding-205773> when called to vote on the latest coronavirus relief bill performed precisely that kind of political theater for their constituents. It is meant as a tough-guy taunt, to show their own robustness and the weakness of their opponents. But it also reveals something more pathological. The risky behavior demonstrates vitality precisely because it tempts fate, suggestive of Freud’s death drive, which he described as a force “whose function is to assure that the organism shall follow its own path to death.” 
> There is now a well-documented relationship between whiteness, status, and morbidity. As Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have demonstrated in their research <https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691190785/deaths-of-despair-and-the-future-of-capitalism>over the last few years, there have been long-term increases in “deaths of despair”—overdoses, suicides, alcohol-related fatalities—among middle-aged whites without college degrees. There is much yet to be understood about reasons for this phenomenon, but a sense of the declining status of whiteness appears tightly connected to collective self-harm. It is difficult not to think about this while watching mostly middle-aged white protesters demand the right to sacrifice their lives instead of joining others to demand greater protections for frontline workers, increased payments to keep workers at home, rent and mortgage moratoria, debt cancellation, federal money for states and municipalities, and more. 
> Demands to reopen states provide great cover for the Trump administration, the Republican Party in Congress, red state governors, and the Federal Reserve, who are working to keep current wealth stratifications in place and protect the rich from economic harm—and doing so without much pushback from Democrats. As conditions become more dire, the right will do all it can to enlist the loyalty of middle- and working-class victims of the crisis. Here, the logics of race and nation will become increasingly important.
> Many of the demonstrators at the recent protests, repeating Fox News talking points, focused their ire on urban America, claiming that communities in less densely populated states and regions were being made to suffer for the problems of big cities. This kind of rhetoric maps easily onto the growing political divides between rural and urban America—and beneath it, the racial demonization of black and brown denizens of cities. It is this sentiment that gives cover to Republican resistance to federal spending when couched in language like Mitch McConnell’s opposition to “blue state bailouts.”
> Within the Trump administration, the nationalist tide continues to rise. Two weeks ago, Attorney General William Barr told Laura Ingraham that he had “felt for a long time—as much as people talk about global warming—that the real threat to human beings is microbes and being able to control disease, and that starts with controlling your border,” he said. “So, I think people will be attuned to more protective measures.” Not long after, the Trump administration moved from the threat of foreign microbes to the threat of foreign workers by issuing an executive order suspending the issuance of new green cards. Meanwhile, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos set down policy guidelines to exempt undocumented students from Covid-19 relief aid.  
> Defenders of the current political order will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect wealth and privilege. They understand that to address the enormity of the economic crisis would upend the neoliberal consensus of this second Gilded Age, which has greatly enriched a few while systematically dismantling public goods, disempowering workers, and diminishing democratic rule. Their hope is that enough Americans go along with this resistance, even if it kills them. 
> Joe Lowndes is a professor of political science at the University of Oregon. His most recent book, with Daniel Martinez HoSang, is Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity <https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/producers-parasites-patriots> (2019). He blogs at JoeLowndes.org <https://www.joelowndes.org/>.   
>  @joelow <https://twitter.com/joelowndes>
> On Thursday, April 30, 2020, Jai Sen <jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>> wrote:
> Thursday, April 30, 2020
> Viruses in movement…, The US in movement…
> [This is history in the making….  Is there anywhere else in the world where this happening ?  Let us not turn our eyes and minds away from what is happening in the US, mind numbing though it is; let us also recognise that the corona virus is not the only virus around – but that its raw power has indeed in turn unleashed others… :
> US : Armed protesters demand end to Michigan coronavirus lockdown
> Dozens of protesters, some with rifles slung around their chests, enter the Capitol and demand to be heard
> al-Jazeera
> https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/armed-protesters-michigan-demand-coronavirus-lockdown-200430193810902.html <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/armed-protesters-michigan-demand-coronavirus-lockdown-200430193810902.html>
> 2-3 hours ago
> A protester at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on Thursday [Paul Sancya/AP Photo]
> Hundreds of angry protesters, some carrying firearms, gathered at Michigan’s State Capitol in Lansing on Thursday to protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s request to extend the state of emergency to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
> The protests came as state legislators debated a measure refusing the governor's request and voted to authorise a lawsuit challenging her authority and actions to combat the pandemic.
> More: 
> US doctors go online to reveal 'bold, loud' coronavirus truths <https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/doctors-online-reveal-bold-loud-coronavirus-truths-200401130420720.html?utm_source=website&utm_medium=article_page&utm_campaign=read_more_links>
> What and who is behind the US anti-lockdown protests? <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/anti-lockdown-protests-200420180415064.html?utm_source=website&utm_medium=article_page&utm_campaign=read_more_links>
> US medical workers stand up to anti-lockdown protesters <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/medical-workers-stand-anti-lockdown-protesters-200420145258308.html?utm_source=website&utm_medium=article_page&utm_campaign=read_more_links>
> At one point during the legislative deliberations, dozens of protesters - many without face coverings and some with rifles slung around their chests - entered the Capitol and demanded to be let into the House chamber, which was closed to the public to allow room for representatives and reporters to spread apart. The crowd shouted, "Let us in" while mask-wearing sergeants and state police blocked them.
> Demonstrators were allowed in the state Senate, which has fewer members and remained in session to also authorise legal action.
> Firearms have been legally allowed in the Michigan state Capitol building for some time.
> Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today. #mileg <https://twitter.com/hashtag/mileg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw> pic.twitter.com/voOZpPYWOs <https://t.co/voOZpPYWOs>
> — Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020 <https://twitter.com/SenPolehanki/status/1255899318210314241?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>
> The protest appeared to be the largest in the state since April 15, when supporters and allies of President Donald Trump organised thousands of people for "Operation Gridlock", jamming the streets of Lansing with their cars to call out what they said was the overreach of Whitmer’s strict stay-at-home order.
> It was one of the country’s first major anti-lockdown rallies and helped sparked a wave of similar events nationwide.
> The slow reopening of state economies around the country has taken on political overtones, as Republican politicians and individuals affiliated with Trump’s re-election promoted protests in electoral battleground states such as Michigan.
> "Governor Whitmer, and our state legislature, it’s over with. Open this state," Mike Detmer, a Republican candidate for US Congress told the crowd. "Let’s get businesses back open again. Let’s make sure there are jobs to go back to."
> At the MI Capitol pic.twitter.com/IuYoBhstIg <https://t.co/IuYoBhstIg>
> — Anna Liz Nichols (@annaliznichols) April 30, 2020 <https://twitter.com/annaliznichols/status/1255899730888011777?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>
> Other speakers at the "American Patriot Rally," which had different organisers to the mid-April protest, questioned the deadliness of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They also said Whitmer’s stay-at-home order violated constitutional rights, and urged people to open their businesses on May 1 in disregard of her order.
> Protesters, many from more rural parts of Michigan, have argued it has crippled the economy statewide even though the majority of deaths from the virus are centred on the southeastern Detroit metro area.
> Protest moves inside Michigan Capitol. Crowd attempts to get onto Hoise floor. Lots of Michigan State Police and House sergeants at arms blocking door. pic.twitter.com/4FNQpimP4W <https://t.co/4FNQpimP4W>
> — Rod Meloni (@RodMeloni) April 30, 2020 <https://twitter.com/RodMeloni/status/1255901755474403328?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>
> Whitmer's stay-at-home order, the strictest in the US, is in effect through May 15. House Republicans wanted changes, such as allowing elective medical and dental procedures again and certainty on the date she plans to reopen the economy on a regional basis. Meanwhile, the governor has allowed some businesses, such as lawn-care companies and greenhouses, to resume operating.
> Many states, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska, South Carolina, and Ohio, have already moved to restart parts of their economies following weeks of mandatory lockdowns that have thrown nearly one in six American workers out of their jobs.
> SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies
> ____________________________
> Jai Sen
> Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa
> jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>

Jai Sen
Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa
jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded and unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) 
CURRENT / RECENT publications :
Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance. Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2018b – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ? (Indian edition). New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration with OpenWord and PM Press.  Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN <https://www.amazon.in/dp/9387280101/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1522884070&sr=8-2&keywords=movements+of+movements+jai+sen>, MOM1Flipkart <https://www.flipkart.com/the-movements-of-movements/p/itmf3zg7h79ecpgj?pid=9789387280106&lid=LSTBOK9789387280106NBA1CH&marketplace=FLIPKART&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&fm=SEARCH&iid=ff35b702-e6a8-4423-b014-16c84f6f0092.9789387280106.SEARCH&ppt=Search%20Page>, and MOM1AUpFront <http://www.authorsupfront.com/movements.htm>
Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
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