Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Left Can’t Just Dismiss the Anti-Lockdown Protests

By Ben Burgis

Jacobin

The anti-lockdown protests may currently represent a Trumpian minority — but that could easily change if the choice becomes going hungry or going back to work. We need a real alternative that refuses to accept the false trade-off between economic security and public health.

ichigan has been hit hard by COVID-19. Roughly 2,700 people have died so far, and that number continues to rise. Last week, amid this unprecedented medical emergency, the quasi-fascist “Proud Boys” blockaded a key intersection next to Sparrow Hospital in my hometown of Lansing.

The group was participating in an anti-lockdown protest branded as “Operation Gridlock” and organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund. The latter is linked to the wealthy, hyper-conservative DeVos family, which has played an outsized role in funding reactionary political organizing in Michigan long before Donald Trump even appointed Betsy DeVos to his cabinet.

Many on the Right have cheered on the protesters. Centrists have mostly just rolled their eyes. The Left needs a better response. While the lockdowns are necessary, it’s unacceptable to ask everyone to continue paying their bills without far more robust government assistance. We should offer genuine solutions to legitimate economic worries even as we acknowledge that much of what was said and advocated at the protest was irresponsible and absurd.

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