Health workers in scrubs and facemasks block anti-coronavirus lockdown protests in Colorado

Operation Gridlock protests across the US dismiss scale of crisis and call for governments to 'reopen' amid unprecedented jobless claims

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 20 April 2020 14:50
Comments
Trump describes armed anti-lockdown protesters as 'great people'

Colorado health workers wearing scrubs and face masks stood in traffic to block oncoming protest caravans that called on officials to end statewide stay-at-home measures intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Two Denver-area health workers stood at a crosswalk to remind protesters why the lockdown efforts are in place, as the state reported more than 400 deaths and 1,200 hospitalisations related to Covid-19.

Organised by a group of far-right provocateurs, Operation Gridlock demonstrations continued across the US over the weekend to demand businesses reopen and protest quarantine efforts that public health officials have urged Americans to take seriously.

Demonstrators — many waving campaign flags supporting Donald Trump or the Gadsen flag, popularised with right-wing libertarians and the Tea Party movement — insist on downplaying the scale of the crisis while also shifting blame to China and accusing the media of exaggerating health risks and the death toll. Few appeared to wear any face coverings.

On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered around Colorado's capitol, blocked traffic around nearby streets and honked horns while waving signs accusing the government of "tyranny" and spreading fear.

Protesters also falsely compared the virus death toll — which has climbed to more than 40,000 in the US within four months — to annual deaths from the flu. Drivers leaned out their cars to wave signs and scream at the nurses standing in their way. One man left his car to yell into the face of one health worker standing in the street.

Another video captures a woman wearing a "USA" T-shirt and holding a "land of the free" sign as she yells at a health worker to "go to China if you want communism."

"You go to work, why can't I go to work?" she yelled.

The pandemic has devastated local economies and left millions of people out of work, with unprecedented jobless claims reaching more than 22 million. More than 233,000 Colorado residents have filed for unemployment benefits.

On Friday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis said officials will determine "what to expect as the economy opens" and it nears the end of its stay-at-home measure, which expires on 26 April. Denver's stay-at-home mandate expires at the end of May.

He said: "As we move towards opening things, we have to be able to sustain the social distancing, and that means doing it in a different way because we want to make sure we don't exceed the hospital bed capacity."

(REUTERS


The protests have attracted global media attention and scrutiny, though more than 80 per cent of Americans believe quarantine efforts are the right call amid the pandemic, and 89 per cent of Americans are staying home as much as possible regardless of a mandate to do so, according to a recent Huffington Post poll.

But the president has been impatient to "reopen" the US economy despite public health uncertainty and warnings from health officials that moving too quickly to resume business as usual would endanger millions of Americans' health and revive a second and third wave of the virus.

A set of White House guidelines for states to follow must meet certain criteria before local governments can begin lifting quarantine measures, but within days of rolling out the plan, the president has encouraged his followers to pressure their local governments to begin reopening.

On Friday, he told his supporters to "liberate" three states with Democrat governors, which was swiftly condemned as a dangerous call for violent insurrection amid the crisis.

On Sunday, he told reporters that "if people feel that way, you're allowed to protest" and claimed that "some governors have gone too far" with stay-at-home measures. Without clarifying, he said that "some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate" despite nearly every state imposing similar efforts to shutter businesses and limit public gatherings.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in