This article has been updated to include a recent statement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in which he warned that protests over the death of George Floyd may contribute to the spread of coronavirus.
The irony isn’t lost on anyone paying attention that, after several months of shaming and threatening Americans who flout coronavirus lockdown orders, Democratic leaders across the nation have shelved their calls for social distancing in support of hordes of individuals protesting the death in police custody of George Floyd.
While Floyd’s death—and that of every other like it—was an assault on justice, the brazen inconsistency among pro-lockdown Democrats is startling.
Back in April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened a massive funeral procession of Orthodox Jews mourning a rabbi who had passed away from COVID-19 with summonses and arrests if they did not disperse. His press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, empathized with mourners but called their gathering “absolutely unacceptable.”
My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
Over the weekend, de Blasio took to the streets himself to dialogue with residents.
On Tompkins Avenue in Bedstuy with @RCornegyJr talking to people about what they've seen and felt this weekend. People are worried about encounters between youth and police, the virus coming back and when kids will be able to get back to school. We have a lot of work to do. pic.twitter.com/uM5ySix5pP
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) May 31, 2020
Again, it’s not wrong at all for de Blasio to hear from his constituents on the streets—nor was it wrong for a procession of mask-wearing Orthodox Jews to mourn a rabbi.
“The death of George Floyd is not an isolated incident,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who only recently relaxed his ban on in-person gatherings to allow up to ten people. “It is part of a continuum of outrage and inequality. That is the reason for the rage, the frustration, the anger and the fear. The demand is for Justice. Over and over and over again.”
The death of George Floyd is not an isolated incident.
It is part of a continuum of outrage and inequality. That is the reason for the rage, the frustration, the anger and the fear.
The demand is for Justice. Over and over and over again.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) May 29, 2020
Over the weekend, Gov. Cuomo’s state was slammed with what began as peaceful protests but, after dark, devolved into violence and theft.
Even the peaceful protests within the state, which were massive, gave Cuomo cause for concern as the state slowly proceeds with its phased reopening.
“We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings,” Cuomo said at his daily coronavirus briefing on Monday. “We don’t even know. We won’t know, possibly for weeks, the nature of the virus. How many super spreaders were in the crowd?”
In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam, who has also put a chokehold on in-person gatherings in the Old Dominion since March, lamented the “sad and emotional week, with too many violent and blatant reminders of how far our country is from genuine equity and fair treatment.”
Absent from his tweets was any call for protesters to practice social distancing.
This has been such a sad and emotional week, with too many violent and blatant reminders of how far our country is from genuine equity and fair treatment.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others have been wrongfully killed, simply for being black.
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) May 29, 2020
Meanwhile, in Detroit, Friday saw massive protests that eventually grew violent as rioters and police clashed.
“We know that this demonstration is going to come at a cost to people’s health,” Whitmer said back in April, referring to one of the massive protests against her oppressive lockdown orders. “We know that when people gather that way without masks, they were within close proximity, they were touching one another, that that’s how COVID-19 spreads.”
Whitmer even threatened that continued protests against her emergency powers could result in extending her shutdown of the state.
On Friday, however, Whitmer failed to mention any potential danger of coronavirus transmission from massive protests over police brutality.
The events of the last couple of weeks have really sent a clear message that black lives are under threat every single day. We cannot live in a society and a country where our rights and dignity are not equal for everyone. pic.twitter.com/Z6FpNRaLZa
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) May 29, 2020
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose city has been flooded with protesters for several days, did not criticize the blatant lack of social distancing, though he did at least bother to call on activists to avoid violence.
“Let’s remember why we march, protect each other, and bring a peaceful end to a painful night,” he said.
I believe in our city. L.A. is strong enough to stand for justice and walk in love.
We respect every Angeleno's right to protest, but violence and vandalism hurts all.
Let's remember why we march, protect each other, and bring a peaceful end to a painful night.
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) May 30, 2020
In the tweet immediately before that one, however, Garcetti gave LA residents a “friendly reminder for any Angelenos returning to their houses of worship this weekend: face coverings and physical distancing are required for all services.”
Friendly reminder for any Angelenos returning to their houses of worship this weekend: face coverings and physical distancing are required for all services. Houses of worship must not exceed 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) May 30, 2020
Most surprisingly of all was the move by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who handed out masks to protesters in his city just days after declaring that allowing too many churchgoers under the same roof at once would be “a recipe in Minneapolis for a public health disaster.”
“I support our governor, I think he’s doing a tremendous job and he’s looking out for the entire state of Minnesota, whereas I’m looking out for the unique characteristics associated with the city of Minneapolis,” Frey said on a Saturday edition of CNN Newsroom, according to Fox News. “Moving up to 25 percent capacity and up to 250 people in places of worship is a recipe in Minneapolis for a public health disaster.”
If you’re attending a thousands-strong rally in memory of George Floyd, however, there appears to be another standard.
“The City encourages everyone to exercise caution to stay safe while participating in demonstrations, including wearing masks and physical distancing as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” a press release read. “The City has made hundreds of masks available to protesters this week.”
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