Hundreds gathered at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on May 1st to protest Governor Pritzker’s extended Stay-At-Home order. They called for Pritzker to end restrictions and to reopen the economy. While there were many Trump flags, not all protesters gathered for the same reasons.
Most news stories about the protest focused on the organizers, Freedom Movement USA, and they asked for comments from Governor Pritzker and other elected leaders. Still others, like Forbes and Buzzfeed, focused their coverage on that one lady with a Nazi slogan. A woman that I didn’t see while I was there.
While activist leaders and their opponents might want a simple story, individual protesters came out for their own complicated mix of reasons. I spoke to individual protesters to find out why they were there.
While there were several Trump flags, the protesters weren’t just right-wingers. A masked Antifa member observed, “There’s people from all sides. I see Libertarians out here I see Republicans. I see Green Party, I see AntiFa like myself… [There are ] people who say it’s right wingers, it’s Donald Trump supporters, it’s Alex Jones conspiracy nuts. There’s all kinds of people out here.”
The same masked man pointed to his sign which called the Stay-At-Home order “white priviledge,” and said, “I’m out here to stand up against JB Pritzker’s fascist order of staying at home. Disproportionately brown people around the world are going to be affected by our stay at home orders here in the United States. Every day that people in the United States are not buying things that we’re not contributing to the world economy. People are dying because they don’t have jobs to feed themselves every night.”
Bob Perry, a Naperville resident, came out, because he was worried about economic problems, “I’m here to protest against what’s happening to our country, what’s happening to the state. We need to open the state back up so people can make a living and provide for their families.”
When asked if he was suffering economically, Perry said, “No, I’m not. I’m here for everyone else that can’t work right now, and they’re not able to provide for their families.”
Other protesters feared that politicians were using this virus to force vaccine mandates. Joanne, carrying an anti-vaccination sign, said, “I am here because it’s time to stop the delusion. I believe that everybody is under a mass delusion, and that this is one big huge illusion that has been created in order to use fear to manipulate everyone because the ultimate goal is going to be vaccine mandates.”
Activists for Young Americans For Liberty, a Libertarian student organization, gathered signatures for a petition to open up Illinois. “We came out here today with young Americans for liberty in order to try reopening the state. So this petition is gonna go to JB Pritzker, and essentially says that it’s we want to stay to open, as soon as possible,” said Grant Stiles.
He emphasized that he was speaking only for himself, not his organization, he said, “The shutdown will just make life and society worse than the pandemic in itself. When you look at the response to the pandemic the lockdown could have adverse mental health effects, it makes people lose their jobs, it destroys small businesses that people built up for years life savings gone, and even hunger on a global scale is going to be exacerbated by this by the response to Corona itself.”
Tom Hultmark stated that the Shelter-In-Place order had already accomplished its goal. “I think we flatten the curve which is all that they said we were supposed to do. They said, ‘give us 15 days’ and they took another 30 and I think we’ve flattened it. I think you can’t stop a virus so they think that you can somehow stop a virus and I think that’s impossible. The people who are worried about it should self quarantine now and the rest should be going to work and doing normal life.”
Serena believes that decisions about health should be left up to individuals. “I believe in personal responsibility, and I am not entrusting my health or my children’s health to the governor or to anybody else but myself. And I believe that no one can save me.”
When asked about the danger of gathering in a large group, she responded, “I would say get a life. They have forgotten how to be alive. We haven’t. And that is why we’re actually here.”
Bobby Jones reported that it’s all a nefarious scam. “I’m out here protesting, trying to wake people up to the biggest hoax perpetrated on humankind today. The fear that they’re using in the media is meant to control us, to keep us down, to take away our freedoms, and the whole goal is for us to enslave ourselves because of the fear.”
Jones doesn’t believe hospital reporting on coronavirus cases and deaths. “The numbers are all artificially inflated…hospitals are financially incentivized to report deaths as coronavirus debts and to report patients as having coronavirus.”