Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said America’s mayors and governors applied a double standard to allow racism protests but shut down other gatherings because of the coronavirus crisis.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, praised those marching for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, but said those in power were picking and choosing which First Amendment rights to support.
“For weeks, the mainstream media heaped scorn on any small citizen protest, outdoor gathering, or even the suggestion that other important values might require a reappraisal of certain restrictions,” he said. “But now, many Americans feel they’ve just seen those fastidious regulations and that puritanical zeal disappear in an instant because a new cause has emerged that powerful people agree with.”
“A month ago, small protest demonstrations were widely condemned as reckless and selfish. Now, massive rallies that fill entire cities are not just praised, but in fact, are called especially brave because of the exact same health risks that brought condemnation when the cause was different,” Mr. McConnell added.
He criticized the “inconsistency” from leaders who attend and take photos at Black Lives Matters protests but implemented strict stay at home orders that prevented some from even putting together funerals or go to religious services.
“Here in the District of Columbia, the Mayor celebrates massive street protests. She joins them herself. But, on her command, churches and houses of worship remain shut. I believe even the largest church buildings in the District are still subject to the 10-person limit for things the Mayor deems inessential,” he said.
National unrest sparked after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have renewed the painful debate of racial tensions and police brutality in the US.
Last week, a group of 1,288 “public-health officials, infectious disease professions, and community stakeholders” published an open letter endorsing the widespread protests as “vital to the national public health.”
“Staying at home, social distancing, and public masking are effective at minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” they wrote. “To the extent possible, we support the application of these public health best practices during demonstrations that call attention to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy.”
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases expert, urged caution for those attending the massive protests across the country as the coronavirus continues to present a threat to public health.
“It’s a perfect set up for further spread of the virus in terms of creating some blips that could turn into some surges,” he said in an interview with WTOP. “There certainly is a risk.”
“It’s important to exercise your constitutional right to be able to demonstrate. But its a delicate balance because the reasons for demonstrating are valid but the demonstration puts one is at additional risk,” he added.