President Donald Trump is once again voicing support for protest movements calling for an end to stay-at-home orders.
Per The Hill, speaking to reporters gathered at the White House for the daily press conference, Trump said that some states are imposing “tough” measures, adding that protests in Virginia are justified because of alleged concerns over the Second Amendment.
“I think we do have sobering guidance, but I think some things are too tough. It’s too tough. Not only relative to this, but what they’ve done in Virginia with respect to the second amendment is a horrible thing,” the president said.
Protests have popped up in Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, and Ohio, with hundreds demanding that government loosens restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In photographs and video footage, the demonstrators — some of whom appear to be Trump supporters — can be seen standing in close proximity, clearly defying social distancing guidelines.
Downplaying the public dangers of such events, Trump suggested that the demonstrations are merely an expression of free speech, defending the protesters.
“These are people expressing their views. They seem to be very responsible people to me. But they’ve been treated a little bit rough.”
Trump has previously voiced support for crowds gathered in the states of Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia. In a series of Twitter messages posted earlier today, the president encouraged the protesters to “LIBERATE” their states. All three states have a Democratic governor, and each of them is a potential general election swing state.
Some fear that Trump is encouraging violence with his words. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, released a statement accusing the president of “fomenting domestic rebellion.” According to Inslee, not only is Trump inciting the crowds to protest, but he is also undermining his own administration’s efforts to curb the virus.
“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted,” Inslee said.
The governor pointed out that public gatherings are the perfect breeding ground for viruses, arguing that similar protests could lead to more coronavirus outbreaks, which would force the government to impose even stricter restrictions in order to contain the disease.
As The Hill notes, Trump’s backing of the demonstrators is only the latest escalation in the feud between the president and Democratic governors. Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Trump has been critical of the way state and local governments are handling the crisis.
Earlier this week, the president said that he has “total authority” to order states to reopen their economies. Governors pushed back against the suggestion, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hitting back at Trump and demanding more help from the federal government.