The protests across the country this past week calling for a ‘reopening of America’ is the obvious conclusion to the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency.
Roughly a thousand people rallied in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this week in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has so far taken over 45,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands around the world. Pennsylvania itself has had over 1,400 people killed by the virus and that number continues to rise daily.
Fourteen hundred Keystone State gravestones are not enough to stop fans of Donald Trump from rallying, shoulder to shoulder on the steps of the Capitol building. When their Dear Leader sends out a message into the ether, calling for them to “LIBERATE” their state, they follow it. And they come armed.
People in their country are dying by the thousands and these Wolverine rejects are allowing the Red Dawn of a completely stoppable virus to sweep across their nation. Of course, they’re not rallying for more access to medical care, ventilators, masks or even asking for unemployment support. They’re demanding to reopen the state of Pennsylvania so that they can get a haircut.
Much has been written about the money behind these rallies, it seems that every state’s ‘ReOpen’ has its own corporate sponsor. Ten years ago it was the Tea Party movement, funded by the Koch Brothers, which is again funding this movement, now joined by the DeVos Family among others. All wealthy conservatives are more than happy to push their subjects into the thresher if it means making that quarterly earnings report look a little bit better.
With that said, the billionaires aren’t paying people to show up to protest these stay at home orders—these people are volunteering. One of the volunteers was Jonathon Fisher of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he found out about the like most of the people that were there did—from Facebook. This month dozens of Facebook groups have popped calling for states to ‘reopen.’
Fisher, donning a horned helmet and carrying a shield told me that he was of German descent and that the Romans saw them as barbarians, hence the get up. This barbarian at the Governor Wolf’s gate was not worried about the coronavirus. “It’s a virus, just like any other virus. Yes, it’s dangerous, but it’s not an epidemic. It’s not worth shutting our country down for. We need to get back to work.”
Unfortunately nearly all of America’s experts that study epidemics disagree. Even the President has, as delusional as he is about science, agrees with his taskforce of experts saying, ‘I’ve always known this is a real—this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. I’ve always viewed it as very serious.’ That, of course, is a different sort of lie—as President Trump has continually denied that the COVID-19 threat was serious. But Jonathon, like President Trump both, consider reputable news organizations fake news. I asked him where he was getting his information, before mentioning a handful of local talk radio hosts he said, “If you look anywhere but fake news, you’ll know it’s not an epidemic.”
As I write this on Thursday, April 23rd, President Trump pondered to the assembled White House media during the Coronavirus Taskforce press conference if disinfectants could be injected into people, “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”
Within the QAnon community and many more out there religious groups drinking a diluted mixture of bleach has become a form of ‘alternative healing.’ It does, of course not do anything but potentially kill you… because it’s bleach.
While I didn’t see anyone at the ReOpen PA rally calling for people to drink bleach there were many anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists there with signs. Most were just generally against the idea that they may be ‘forced’ to get a vaccine but some, like this man below took it a step further.
At other rallies across the country members of the white nationalist and hate groups made appearances. The Proud Boys, a SPLC designated hate group caused a traffic jam in front of a hospital. In Harrisburg, I didn’t identify any specific extremist hate groups but the far-out world of the internet was certainly there. Especially these gun carrying men wearing Hawaiin shirts which have become standard “boogaloo” wear. Boogaloo being a short way of saying “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo.”
A number of Alex Jones/Infowars fans were present—which shouldn’t be surprising as Jones has been using this pandemic as a way to sell his wares, from food buckets to silver infused toothpaste that he has claimed at different times could either cure you or prevent the virus from infecting you. He has backtracked from that recently as he’s received a letter from the FDA and the State of NY’s Attorney General.
What I haven’t mentioned yet was the large number of MAGA hats, shirts, flags, and yes even camo Trump 2020 masks. This is why Trump refused to tell these people to cancel their plans for this rally from the podium at the White House briefing room and why he tweeted out “LIBERATE” to his millions of followers. This was a Trump rally, and damn—he really misses having those. It’s been about six weeks since his last rally and without the necessary ego boost of cheering fans the President has been striking out even more than usual and drifting into anti-science conspiracy theories – but to an audience who knows better.
I know I started this piece with the statement that these rallies are the obvious conclusion to the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump famously said that he could shoot a person on 5th Ave and not lose a single supporter—well he’s helped kill over 45,000 people in front of cameras and his popularity amongst his supporters hasn’t changed. This is why it’s time to start calling his supporters what they are, cultists. They are in fact participating voluntarily in a death cult. They are willing and ready to die for their leader. Conspiracies run rampant amongst them that the Democrats are purposely trying to tank the economy with the shut down orders and simultaneously lie about the numbers of dead solely to make Trump look bad. QAnon conspiracies have become normalized and professional conspiracists like Alex Jones are finding themselves boxed out by mainstream corporate news outlets like FoxNews and OANN. Increasing numbers of these cultists are meme-ing about a boogaloo, bringing their guns to rallies and often, like in Richmond earlier this year threatening to murder their elected leaders.
Previously political campaigns and parties have discussed that they have a big tent—drawing from as many people as possible to build alliances to win. This is what Trump has successfully done—he has brought together, as Hillary Clinton said “the deplorables.” All these people who have been kicked out of Thanksgiving dinners, banned from community groups, shunned by their neighbors because they won’t stop talking about fluoride in the water, keeping a Confederate flag on their front lawn and talk about “the blacks.” He gave them a megaphone that gets 3 hours every night on the nightly news and draws thousands to hockey arenas. And in turn they give him their allegiance and most importantly their vote. We’re nowhere near the end of the story of this cult.
Note: While covering this event I did use my last N95 mask (held over from an old house painting) and wore gloves. Once I left the rally I used multiple disinfectants on my equipment, glasses, shoes and removed my jacket to be washed before even entering my car. Once home I thoroughly cleaned my car and all my clothes.