My Thoughts on Protesting During a Pandemic

Why am I writing this?

I wasn’t sure whether to write and post this, but I am for two reasons. First, I need to vent, though hopefully in a way that explains my reasons for how I’m feeling. Second, I believe that a big part of overcoming racism is giving people the opportunity to talk openly about their concerns, BEFORE everything gets pent up and it all comes out in ways that border on being racist. In so many forums and on social media posts people are just reacting and insulting or laughing at each other. I can understand it to an extent because people are angry and upset. Angry that racism exists and/or angry that protesters put their own and other’s lives at risk. That doesn’t help though and only widens the gap between us all. People need to respond to what each other are saying and try to see where the other person is coming from. That’s why I spend time reading these comments and other people’s views, beyond my own or those of my friends and family.

Murdering someone is wrong – Just in case you didn’t know

I never thought I would have to say these words, but here they are anyway. I do not agree with the police (in any country) murdering people. That should go without saying. Even if someone has committed a crime in the past, or are suspected of committing one now, there is a justice system in place and it doesn’t involve killing anyone.

Why I don’t think it’s okay put people at risk with protests/mass gatherings

Protesting is fine by me. I have no problem with this in normal situations. This is not a normal situation though. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Since the end of March, people have been unable to see their friends and family, outside of those they live and/or work with. For me, I missed being with my mum on the third anniversary of my dad’s death, leaving her alone that day. I already worked from home, but lost work and potential book sales, struggled with money (or the lack of it) and was conflicted about whether to take on work outside and risk getting infected and passing it on to my partner who has diabetes. As it turned out, I couldn’t get such work anyway.

For other people, they have lost loved ones. I know three people who have lost someone. Sure, these people might have died in a few months or years, but that doesn’t make it okay. Every single extra day they could have lived has now gone because of this virus and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Others I know have struggled with their mental health. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some friends or family members won’t see each other again. If it’s not Covid that takes someone’s life, it could be suicide because lockdown is extremely difficult, especially for those with pre-existing mental health conditions. Then there are people who had operations and treatment cancelled and could die before these can be rescheduled.

With the exception of those who have blatantly flouted lockdown and social distancing, the nation has made substantial sacrifices to prevent the spread.

Using masks as a reason to protest “safely”

I’ve seen people saying it’s okay for them to attend protests because they and most others were wearing masks. However, there is so much conflicting information on whether masks protect against the virus. I don’t believe masks and face coverings would be enough in such a large crowd. I think they just reduce the chances of it spreading, so looking at images of hundreds or even thousands of people standing less than two metres away from each other is terrifying for me. Not only does it make me think that even a handful of those people might spread the virus, even if they don’t show symptoms, but it makes me think of all the people they may come into contact with. This could be shop assistants when buying food, people on public transport and so on. Those people will then be around their own family and pass it on to them. We will never find out exactly how many people will get infected because of these protests and how many will die as a result of the virus being passed from person to person.

In my opinion, it is not possible to control the virus.

When I hear protesters say they feel strongly about fighting racism, that they feel this is worth the risk, it seems like they are making the choice for others who have decided not to take this risk, but will come into contact with them at some point. This takes me to my next point.

Other ways to combat racism

During lockdown, people have found other ways to carry on with parts of their life; using zoom to keep in touch with loved ones and run poetry, music, quiz and comedy nights. The internet makes it possible for many people to work from home. Given all these resources and how practical we all are at finding ways to use them, I struggle to believe we can’t find other ways to protest and support causes like Black Lives Matter. More to the point, we can find ways that don’t undo all the work and suffering people have gone through in these past few months.

Finding other ways would also be more effective, because people are more likely to listen when they’re not seeing images and footage of thousands of people undoing all the hard work they have done. I’m sure this is not the case, but it makes it look like the crowds of protesters don’t care.

It gets people’s attention, but not their understanding and support. In order to get someone to listen and care about what you are saying, shouldn’t you also be willing to listen to and care about what they are saying? This needs to be a two-way system.

Trampling over everything

With so many not being able to work, see their loved ones, attend funerals or having to die without their families around them, seeing these crowds has upset me and others. I am upset that people have chosen to gather like this when I believe there are other ways to get the message against racism across.

Right now, I feel like everything in the past few months has been for nothing. I was trying my best to be hopeful and look at how life might be when this is over, or at least when normality begins to return on some level. Now I just see more of the same; people spreading the virus and leading to a second or local lockdown, or losing people I care about.

Considering the protests are about innocent people being victimised and killed, I’m baffled about why anyone would think spreading a virus that could potentially kill more innocent people could ever be the solution.

Crowds on beaches

Before I finish, I want to address another comment I’ve seen online.

Many people have said those complaining about the protests don’t mention the crowds who gather at beaches, parks, barbeques etc. I personally have not gathered in parks or beaches and don’t agree with anyone who does. I have no control over anyone who does either, just like I have no control over anyone who chooses to gather at a protest.

You might notice I haven’t referred to anyone as black people or white people in this article. We are all just people and we are all angry and upset in our own right. We need to think about how we act on those emotions, because we are all affected by each other’s actions.

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