“PPP: Please Protest Properly”

As Americans we have the right to stand up for what we believe in. But people need to stop protesting and storming government buildings with their biggest weapons: their guns and their germs.

Over the last few weeks protests have amassed across the country surrounding state led COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. From the armed protestors in Michigan to both armed and unarmed in North Carolina to Ohio, from Kentucky to Colorado to Illinois, and now California, Americans are storming public places, state capitol buildings and their steps with negative cheers and rants against their government leaders demanding an end to stay-at-home orders. Arguments for such have ranged from individual economic woes to individuals feeling the government should not tread on them. For example, in Michigan almost every media outlet covering the protests highlighted that the protestors’ chants were filled with hatred, racism, and sexism towards their government leaders coupled with some of these individuals armed with assault rifles. Before we move on to these people’s lack of safety for themselves and others’ health, let’s stop here for a minute.

Legally educated, I’m all about an individual’s right to protest their government and to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment, but protesting while brandishing a weapon specifically an assault rifle on the steps of and surrounding a government building? Clearly these individuals were forcefully removed, and hopefully not shot, right? Well, kind of. Thankfully, the armed protestors that rushed the doors of the state house building were quickly removed by uniformed state police, but those who were armed on the steps of the capitol were not. How could that be? As a man of color, in my opinion the answer is straight-forward: they were not black.

All these protests have been dominated by a very specific demographic of people: conservative white males, and in some cases known white supremacists. It reminds me of Charlottesville and the rage that exuded which many believe was spurred by President Trump and other right-winged groups — of which some of those groups have publicly taken credit for organizing these protests. Realistically, the majority of us should agree that had people of color stormed these government buildings or even stood on the steps of state capitols with assault rifles, they’d be arrested immediately or even worse, shot on the spot.

With these protests occurring in all regions of our country and on both Democrat and Republican governors, maybe this isn’t totally driven by race nor party affiliation, rather it’s the economy and our personal pocket-books — I could buy that.

I’m all about peacefully standing up for what you believe in, and we can all agree especially when it is something that directly impacts you and your ability to feed and/or care for your family, but to make demands of your government by harmful, hateful rants and cheers while holding weapons is taking it too far. It is definitely taking it too far when many of the states where these protests are occurring either have already started easing restrictions with proper safety precautions on (some) businesses or have laid out plans to in the near future.

Equally bad, if you have seen pictures of these demonstrations, the majority of these protestors are not wearing face masks nor gloves. I’m not a doctor nor epidemiologist, but not only are these folks speaking recklessly at these protests, it is widely known and safe to say that they are inflicting harm on themselves and others by standing in tight, decently sized crowds with no personal protective equipment (PPE) on. This is beyond me when recent, nationally reputable polls have found that the majority of Americans have and are wearing masks in public. Protestors, if you personally think that you don’t need to follow what every scientist, doctor and expert has said concerning PPE, social distancing and stay-at-home orders and how they are assisting in quelling the spread of COVID-19, please don’t bring your possibly infected, foolish behaviors into public and definitely not back to Chicago nor Illinois. If you’re going to by-pass the traditional political and rule-making process of contacting your local elected officials by phone or email, protest consciously with PPE and with social distancing in mind.

Again, I am all about exercising both our inalienable and delineated rights given to us as Americans by our forefathers and the need for our economy to get going again so we can care for ourselves and our families, but let’s do it the right way, peacefully and respectfully with the least amount of harm to others — the true way our forefathers intended.

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Reyahd D.J. Kazmi

Reyahd D.J. Kazmi

Reyahd lives on faith and family. He is a cross-sector consultant, advocate, politico, not-for profit executive, and post-graduate adjunct. @rdjkazmi