Protesters calling for an end to the stay-at-home policies in place across the country to stem the spread of the coronavirus gathered outside capitols in at least six states across the country. President Donald Trump showed his support on Twitter Friday, encouraging them to "liberate" Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, all states with Democratic governors. In an interview with The Washington Post Friday, White House economic adviser Stephen Moore compared the protesters to Rosa Parks.
"I think there's a boiling point that has been reached and exceeded," Moore, a conservative economist, told the Post. He said the protests were spontaneous and organized at the local level, although his group is advising them and vowed to offer legal support. "I call these people the modern-day Rosa Parks — they are protesting against injustice and a loss of liberties."
This was not the only time Moore compared the protesters to Parks, the Civil Rights icon who was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to sit in the back of a bus in 1955. In a YouTube video shared by a libertarian think tank, Moore said he was working on a "drive-in" in Wisconsin to protest Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home order, which was extended to May 26.
"They're going to shut down the Capitol. Shh. Don't tell anybody," Moore said, reports The Hill. "This is a great time for civil disobedience. We need to be the Rosa Parks here and protest against these government injustices."
Moore's comments drew instant and bipartisan shock on social media, with many pointing out the stark differences between Parks' protest and the protests against the stay-at-home orders. "Congratulations to Trump adviser Stephen Moore on a comment at once strikingly stupid and deeply offensive," conservative columnist Bill Kristol tweeted. "Could you have imagined the outcome if Rosa brought a gun to the bus?" Scott Huffman, a Democratic candidate for one of North Carolina's U.S. House seats, wrote. "I'll never forget the day Rosa Parks got on the bus with a submachine gun and refused to wear a mask because of freedom," author Mark Harris tweeted.
Moore also told CBS News Friday he wanted Trump to start reopening the economy now. "I think actually think we should have started this a week or two ago," Moore said. "I think we lean way too much in the direction of keeping the economy shut down to try to save every life, not realizing that we're causing huge hardship for citizens — again, people at the bottom and businesses — and we're going to suffer a big loss of living standards because of this."
On Thursday, Trump unveiled a three-phase strategy for states to use to slowly reopen the country. But on Friday, he published a series of tweets calling for people to "liberate" Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. All three of those states have Democratic governors who have issued state-at-home orders. Some politicians have feared Trump encouraging protesters is a recipe for danger.
"The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies - even while his own administration says the virus is real, it is deadly and we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted," Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, of Washington tweeted. Inslee, whose stay-at-home order lifts on May 5, added, "The president’s actions threaten his own goal of recovery. His words will likely cause a spike in infections where distancing is working. That will further postpose the 14 days of decline his own guidance says is necessary to ease restrictions."