Hundreds prefer 'liberty' over safety

Updated: Apr 21, 2020, 08:51 IST | Agencies | Washington

Around 2,500 people demonstrate against lockdown at Washington state capitol; Trump once again backs protesters

Demonstrators gather at a protest opposing Washington state's stay-home order on Sunday. Pic/AP
Demonstrators gather at a protest opposing Washington state's stay-home order on Sunday. Pic/AP

More and more people, most of them without masks, flooded the streets of Washington on Sunday to protest against the stay-at-home order imposed to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Donald Trump once again supported the protesters, saying that the people want to get back to work. The Trump administration said parts of the nation are ready to begin a gradual return to normalcy. Yet some state leaders say their response to the pandemic is hindered by a woefully inadequate federal response.

People are "allowed to protest. Some governors have gone too far, some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate," he said on Sunday. "Look. They call it cabin fever — they've got cabin fever. … Their life was taken away from them," the Washington Post quoted Trump as saying. He added, "These people love our country. They want to get back to work."

According to Reuters, around 2,500 people gathered at Washington state capitol in Olympia to demonstrate against Democratic Governor Jay Inslee's lockdown order. "Shutting down businesses by picking winners and losers in which there are essential and non-essential are violations of the state and federal constitution," rally organiser Tyler Miller, 39, told Reuters. Hundreds took to the streets in Denver.

Trump also announced that he would be using the Defence Production Act to compel increased manufacturing of testing swabs — one of several products governors have been begging him to help them acquire. White House officials will also be holding a call on Monday with the governors to help walk them through where to find supplies, he said.

Trump also remained defensive, however, vowing that there were enough swabs to go around. "Swabs are easy," the president said, bringing one to his news briefing. That came hours after Washington state's Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, accused Trump of encouraging insubordination and "illegal activity" by goading protesters who flouted lockdowm rules his own administration has encouraged.

"To have an US president to encourage people to violate the law, I can't remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing," Inslee told ABC's "This Week.'' He said it was "dangerous because it can inspire people to ignore things that actually can save their lives." Trump supporters in several states have ignored social distancing and stay-at-home orders, gathering to demand that governors lift controls on public activity.

Israel sees spike in anti-Semitic sentiments

Israeli researchers said on Monday that the pandemic has sparked a rise in anti-Semitic expression blaming Jews for the spread of the virus and the economic recession. The annual report by Tel Aviv University researchers shows 18 per cent spike in attacks against Jews last year. It warns that the pandemic has threatened to amp up incitement even more. The researchers said the hatred has come from sources as varied as right-wing European politicians, ultra-conservative American pastors, anti-Zionist intellectuals and Iranian state authorities.

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