By: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(LOS ANGELES) — Protesters defied stay-at-home orders on Monday and took to the streets in the capitals of Maine and Pennsylvania, toting American flags and “Don’t Tread on Me” banners, and slamming the safety precautions against the coronavirus as an act of “tyranny.”
The demonstrations followed a wave of similar protests that started last week in Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, California, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky.
The protests were mostly organized on Facebook, which has announced that the company has taken action to remove anti-quarantine events promoted in California, Nebraska and New Jersey after consultation with state governments that expressed concern that the events violate their stay-at-home orders.
“Unless government prohibits the events during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook,” a spokesperson for the company told ABC News. “For this same reason, events that defy the government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”
The protests have garnered the encouragement of President Donald Trump, who in a series of tweets on Friday appeared to condone people disobeying rules intended to blunt the coronavirus, many based on his own recommendations.
Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA” and followed that with “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It’s under siege!”
“I just think that some of the governors have gotten carried away,” Trump said at a coronavirus briefing at the White House on Friday.
The largest protest on Monday appeared to occur outside the capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., where a large crowd gathered, many clearly not wearing protective face masks nor adhering to social distancing rules of being at least six feet apart. The event was organized by the groups Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, ReOpen Pa, and End The Lockdown PA.
A CT Scan of a heart from a man in his 30s, tested positive for coronavirus, with a massive saddle embolus in the pulmonary arteries.
“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny,” reads a statement released by the Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine.
The groups are demanding the stay-at-home directives imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, be lifted by May 1 for healthy citizens willing to continue enhanced hygienic habits.
The demonstration was carried out despite the latest data showing 33,232 Pennsylvania residents had contracted the coronavirus, 948 of them since Saturday, according to the state Department of Public Health. The state also reported on Monday that 92 new deaths occurred since Saturday, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,204.
All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have reported having positive coronavirus cases, according to the data.
Despite the grim numbers, organizers of the Harrisburg protest complained that they will have endured seven weeks of home lockdown once May 1 arrives.
“Business owners are being forced to lay off employees while the unemployment system is failing those laid off as the economy free falls,” the statement from Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine reads.
The various protesting groups claim they are not affiliated with any political party, or political action group, according to the statement. But many in the crowd Monday held up Trump reelection posters.
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that far-right, pro-gun provocateurs, including the group Minnesota Gun Rights, are behind some of the groups organizing protests on Facebook in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The groups have roughly 200,000 members combined, the Post reported.
Some of those participating in the Harrisburg protest were spotted carrying rifles.
In Augusta, Maine, several hundred anti-quarantine protestors rallied on Monday outside Blaine House, the official residence of the governor, demanding that coronavirus stay-at-home orders not be extended beyond May 1 and asking Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, to consider reopening the economies in counties with the least amount of coronavirus cases. Demonstrators held signs reading “Everyone is essential” and “Save our businesses. Reopen Maine,” according to ABC affiliate station WMTW-TV in Portland.
The Maine protesters were led by the groups ReOpen Maine and Mainers Against Excessive Quarantine.
The protesters warned that small businesses, which supply 60% of the jobs in the state, can’t survive the stay-at-home orders if they are prolonged.
Maine has recorded 875 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 35 deaths linked to the disease, according to data updated on Monday by the state’s Division of Disease Surveillance.
Anti-quarantine protests have also broken out in recent days in Paris, Mumbai, Beirut, Baghdad and Israel.
ABC News’ Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.
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