Does Anyone Want to Take Bets on the Number of COVID Cases that’ll Link Back to the MAGA Protests?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

When Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests commenced last May, several months after the pandemic had begun, the significance of standing up for Black Americans was enough of a cause for many to don a mask and march. Last week, another highly populated movement erupted during the still rampant coronavirus threat, when Trump supporters stormed the capital to protest the conspiratorial election fraud… and do you think they wore masks to do it? 

As the hearing to finalize future President Biden’s victory took place on Wednesday, January 6th, a tsunami of Trump supporters flooded the capital… literally. Aside from this flood successfully committing the first physical invasion of the Capitol building since 1814, there are many ways in which we could compare – and more importantly, contrast (mostly contrast) – the BLM protests from last year and the march of Trump supporters this week.

greyscale image of a BLM protest Photo Redrecords from Pexels

I’ll go first. Something similar about the protests is that they were both pretty populated marches during a pandemic. However, this is where that similarity falls short. The principal distinction that needs to be addressed is the fact that the thousands of Trump supporters who were shoulder to shoulder on the Capitol weren't taking the same precautions to protect the health of themselves and those around them. I can feel Tucker Carlson asserting something like, “If the BLM people can do it during COVID, then what's wrong with this?” Well, let me tell you Tucker, if we’re being honest, the elephant in the Capitol room is the reality that most of the people who love Trump are also most of the people who don’t wear masks. 

Civil disobedience in all its glory looks like peace and nonviolence in juxtaposition to a historically violent law enforcement. Aside from the rioting and looting that occurred during the 2020 BLM protests, Martin Luther King Jr., the paramount figure of civil disobedience, might have been marching along in the afterlife. Much of the nation united against a risk to stand up for Black lives. The protesters also united in protecting the lives of those around them by wearing masks. According to data from Healthline, there was no evidence of an increase in COVID cases following the bulk of the BLM protests. Experts stated that this was probably because protesters were outside in the Summer, and most wore masks. 

Will the pro-Trump protests follow suit? Not likely. Keeping in mind that these protestors didn’t wear masks, we know that we’re not in a good place in the pandemic right now, despite the vaccine progression. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (aka the COVID superhero), told ABC news that we should expect things to get a lot worse as far as cases go.

“...You have surges related to so many factors inconsistent with adhering to the public health measures, the winter months coming in right now with the cold allowing people or essentially forcing people to do most of their things indoors as opposed to outdoors,” he said. “...ingredients that unfortunately make for a situation that is really terrible.” 

Washington DC capitol building trump protest Photo by Tyler Merbler distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license

But, for the sake of Tucker, let’s say that people did wear masks in Washington, or that there was evidence that the BLM protests caused a spike in cases. The causes driving the protesters to risk the health of other Americans isn’t justified in the same way. During the Civil Rights Movement, there was always a risk when activists marched. The fundamental quality of civil disobedience demonstrations and peaceful protests that make them effective and admirable is the meaningful risk people take for the more weighty and worthy sake of other peoples’ livelihood. As a philosophy student, I must put it this way: “The ends must justify the means.” A just and fair election is a core value of our democracy. I agree with this! But a conspiracy with no evidence that threatens the election isn’t justified in sacrificing the health of thousands of other lives. Black lives are more than a justified cause to arm oneself with a mask and face the battle of the pandemic. 

But this is certainly not a shared opinion. The decision by many to wear a mask and march was largely criticized by Republicans and BLM critics last year. The leftist media and politicians were accused of being hypocritical by their opposers. Fox News said in June, “Their dropping of mask shaming, social distancing and coronavirus fears as soon as the riots began shows that they have a left-leaning agenda.” 

There are no certain estimates for the cases that will increase in relation to Wednesday’s events,  and I’m not petty enough to hope that there will be a big spike in COVID-19 cases – especially given the current strain on the healthcare system. It’s unlikely, though, that this won’t be considered a super spreader event. Unfortunately the politicization of this pandemic and the extreme political polarization in our country have led to several questionable decisions in the mess that was 2020 (and now, 2021). So, join me as I continue to wear my mask, wash my hands, and enjoy the 2021 inauguration.