Extremist Groups Behind Anti-Lockdown Protests

June 1, 2020 by Neil Pakrasi

Since the US government instructed citizens to stay at home and practice social distancing, a record of 20.5 million jobs was lost in April and the SNP 500, a general benchmark of the economy, has been falling for many weeks. Most citizens understand that to reduce the spread of Covid-19, they must endure these hardships, especially because the rate of infection and number of cases is much higher in America than most others in the world. Nonetheless, there are some who are keen to reopen their country; in Washington and Michigan, among other states, where the pandemic has struck the hardest, intense anti-lockdown protests have been taking place.

While at first, it seems that citizens are simply dissatisfied with the way their state has handled the lockdown and are desperate to resume their flow of income to provide for their families, there is more to these demonstrations than meets the eye. Some protests are reminiscent of pro-Trump election rallies, seeing floods of pro-gun, MAGA hat donning citizens taking to the streets. This has led President Trump to sympathize with them despite their violation of federal guidelines. Interviews conducted by the Guardian reveals many anti-lockdown groups even have ties to the extreme far-right. AR2, or American Revolution 2.0, presents itself as a grassroots, bipartisan organization, but it has received extensive assistance from far-right groups such as the Tea Party. AR2 has a strong presence on Facebook and is one of the main organizers behind the protests. Its website was built and is run by the same group that has worked with domestic terrorists responsible for bombing a mosque. The leader of AR2, John Ellis, has admitted he relies on pro-militia and radical pro-gun advocates such as the widely criticized Dorr brothers. Ben, Christopher, and Aaron Dorr are at the forefront of the “Minnesota Gun Rights” group and believe the National Rifle Association is far too compromising with gun safety. Furthermore, many sites that work in connection with AR2 have been responsible for the mass spreading of misinformation about Covid-19, particularly on Facebook.

The coronavirus has tested the strength of the American people and their leaders. Governors have struggled to convince anti-lockdown groups that they must remain at home, while most Americans think that the government will reopen too soon. Scientific experts are no longer experts in the eyes of the president, causing the pandemic to become more and more of a political issue. As a result, the American population is growing increasingly divided in a time when unity is essential.

Neil Pakrasi ('23) is a Junior Editor at SPR.

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