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Politicians apply double standards on protests

An increasing number of politicians are attending the Black Lives Matter protests, even though they have recently asked everyone not to attend gatherings or even leave home because of the novel coronavirus. However, participation in the demonstrations appears to be not only allowed but encouraged, even if it may increase the number of people infected. Meanwhile, a restaurant was fined for opening its patio to guests so that they could wait there for their takeaway order.

Movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa are staging demonstrations all over the US. Some of them are peaceful, while others go violent. What can be disturbing is the double standard surrounding protests for which politicians are responsible.

Many leading public figures have been preoccupied with coronavirus, and they asked people to stay at home if possible. Large gatherings are still banned in most cities due to the pandemic. However, the activists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement seem to disregard that rule, as they are taking to the streets en masse to mourn the death of George Floyd. In some demonstrations, extremist protesters wreak havoc and cause damage to property.

Numerous politicians have voiced their support of the demonstrations, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He did not leave his home for weeks because of the coronavirus, only informing citizens about the measures on video. Over the weekend, however, he decided to leave self-quarantine to attend the BLM demonstration in Ottawa.

The premier even got on his knees at the demonstration as a sign of solidarity, but was less concerned with the fact that no one kept the required distance at the event. Mr Trudeau, who was earlier involved in the blackface scandal, later explained his action by saying he wanted to hear people's voices and listen to what black Canadians had to say.

While Trudeau was protesting on the streets, a restaurant also in Ottawa was fined 880 dollars. The Grand Pizzeria opened its patio to guests so that they could wait for their takeaway order there while enjoying a drink. It received the fine because restaurants in Canada are currently only allowed to offer food for takeout and home delivery.

A customer came to the defence of the restaurant on social media, pointing out that there was no service, customers were only allowed to sit on the patio while waiting for their take-away food. And that is not different from people sitting on city benches in the street while waiting. Nevertheless, the restaurant was handed a hefty fine while protesters face no sanctions.

The Canadian head of government is not the only politician to appear at protests and openly express support while earlier encouraged people to stay at home. A few days ago, the mass demonstration in Harrisburg was attended by Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania, and Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

Governor Wolf introduced a three-phase coronavirus reopening plan in Pennsylvania, with the counties placed in red, yellow or green phases. Harrisburg is in Dauphin County in the yellow phase meaning that there is a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people.

The protest in question was attended by several hundred people, along with the governor, who says people have the right to protest and the right of free speech. However, when small businesses were ready to open their doors in early May, Wolf called them "cowardly" and "selfish" for "surrendering" to the virus and showing their willingness to put the health of others at risk. The police were not happy either by the governor's appearance at the demonstration which they understood as criticism of their work.

The protests can even take a tragic turn. The coronavirus outbreak is not over yet in the United States and large crowds gather at the rallies where people do not observe the 1.5-metre physical distancing and frequently fail to wear masks. 

Trevor Bedford, epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, arrived at shocking results.  According to the scientist's estimation, if approximately 600 thousand people gather at protests across the United States every day and a 0.5 per cent transmission rate is assumed, then there would be 3 thousand people contracting the virus daily in the protests.

This implies that following the two-week incubation period of the virus, 15 to 30 daily deaths are forecast. Moreover, infected individuals pass on the disease and with the exponential spread of the virus, more than 100 thousand infections and as many as 1,080 deaths can be expected within two months in the United States.

Nicholas A. Christakis, a professor at Yale, warned that 4,500 people died from the Spanish flu after a mass gathering of 200 thousand people in Philadelphia in 1918.

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