Civil Movement in the Age of COVID-19

Max Klavon –

          The right to protest has played a crucial role in the history of American civil rights movements, with mass demonstrations (both peaceful and violent) impacting everything from women’s rights to racial equality. In recent weeks, the murder of George Floyd has served as a spark to ignite another round of protests and civil demonstrations to fight against the long history of abusive police practices within the United States, with specific interest in the unfair prejudice exercised against minorities. However, with restrictions resulting from COVID-19 still being slowly lifted and concerns over social distancing remaining in place, the act of protesting has greater implications than just the issues it is concerned with. Rather, protesting during COVID-19 reflects a conflict of interest. It displays a clash between the restriction of viral spread versus acting to impact the American social atmosphere.

         

Throughout the implementation of quarantine and social distancing practices, I have been extremely careful to follow guidelines to the letter and then some. The driving desire behind my somewhat-extreme isolation was a desire to do the civil duty and flatten the viral curve. I have wanted to play my part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 by limiting my contact with others as much as possible out of fear of becoming a transmitter of the virus and conveying it to the at-risk members of my family. Even with the loosening of restrictions, I still maintained social distancing practices and avoided public spaces, holding onto my belief in the value of these behaviors for the sake of protecting those around me. I was content to follow through with this until the definitive end of the pandemic. This was until the murder of George Floyd. After his wrongful death and the spread of protests across the nation, I found myself faced with a dilemma of morals. To take part in the protests would mean that I was acting in part of a greater social movement, one that I firmly believe in and hope will change unjust practices in the United States. However, my participation would result in potential exposure to the virus. Even with masks and attempts at social distancing, the crowded nature of protests would mean that my presence would risk my health as well as the health of my family. If I stay home from the protests, I maintain my protection from infection. Staying home would also mean remaining silent in these protests. I could post all I wanted to about it on social media, but that is ultimately far less impactful than going into the streets and standing with others to say “no more” to police brutality. My sense of social responsibility is torn both ways, as acting in either is a threat to a pressing issue. Ultimately, however, the act of protest weighs far heavier than my preservation of isolation during COVID-19. I cannot stay home and watch from afar while history is being made in the streets of America. I cannot stay home while protestors are being assaulted in the streets by a system that is supposed to protect them. I cannot stay home because there is a movement that is bigger than me and my family and I have an obligation to participate if there is even a chance that it could change the lives of the thousands who are subject to unjust law practices. There might be a price to pay, but I accept the ramifications of my actions.

-Submitted May 31, 2020

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