Who are the Self-Styled Liberators? Looking More Deeply at those Protesting Coronavirus ShutdownsRoundup
tags: conservatism, far right, militia movement
Betsy Gaines Quammen is a historian and author of American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God and Public Lands in the West.
Easter Sunday saw most Americans hunkered down at home, observing social-distance directives in their various states. But not Ammon Bundy. Famous for his armed anti-government protests, he flouted Idaho’s shelter-in-place order to convene a Sunday service with Pastor Diego Rodriguez in the town of Emmett.
Though he had called for 1,000 people to gather, the live stream showed about 40 participated. Still, his defiance and that of others have fanned the flames of protest across the country. At a time when we are seeing the benefits of social distancing against the rolling disaster of COVID-19, Bundy and others are threatening to create new hotspots.
Bundy wasn’t the first to flout state restrictions put in place to stem this contagion. Tony Spell’s Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge and Dr. Rodney Howard’s River Church in Tampa have also been holding large religious gatherings. CNN reported that in one Russian Pentecostal church, Bethany Slavic Missionary, near Sacramento, at least 70 people have tested positive for COVID.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Ammon Bundy and his family are members, has responsibly shut down its services since March 12. Bundy has other ideas.
It’s not just imagined threats to religious freedoms that is fomenting these pockets of rebellion. The American militia movement — a network of armed people, some religiously motivated, some white supremacists, some neither, loosely organized to defend the Constitution, or at least their own version of it — have joined in.
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