Protesters amass at Capitol in symbolic and literal rejection of Safer At Home.

Thousands of protestors rallied in close quarters on the Capitol lawn in opposition to the Safer At Home order. Photo: Sam Buisman

Author: Sam Buisman

Thousands of protestors rallied at the State Capitol to oppose the Safer At Home order on Friday.

Wisconsinites from across the state crowded the front lawn of the building and drove around the Capitol Square in a protest that eschewed the Safer At Home order in and of itself. Organizers set up a tent and speaker system at the entryway to the Capitol, allowing speakers to address, pastors to sermonize, and musicians to serenade the thralls of protestors. 

Protestor Bradley Choinski described the Safer At Home order as tyrannical and contrary to the idea of American freedom. 

“They should not be able to infringe on our rights whenever they God-blessed please,” said Choinski. “It goes against everything in America’s human nature, everything it’s built upon.”

On April 16, Governor Tony Evers extended the Safer At Home order’s deadline to May 26 from the original end date of April 24. Healthcare experts across the state supported the extension, agreeing with the Governor’s logic that it was necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Protestors waved American, Gadsden and Trump flags from within the crowd or out the windows of their car. Others carried signs adorned with slogans like “Make Wisconsin essential again,” “Freedom is essential,” “Adolf Evers” and “Let the strippers get back to work.”

While earlier protests were organized to abide by social distancing guidelines, this protest flew in the face of all such recommendations. Crowds of people packed into close quarters on the Capitol lawn and shouldered by each other on the surrounding sidewalks.

Most protestors recognized that the rally may encourage the spread of the virus, but they considered the event important enough to participate in nonetheless. 

UW-Whitewater Freshman Andrew Spreen viewed attending the rally as a necessary risk, considering the impacts of keeping the economy closed.

“These people are out here because they care and I think they’re out here for a good reason,” said Spreen. “It’s not a bad thing to necessarily take that risk if you’re trying to open up the state.”

Many protestors indicated that the closure of nonessential businesses has hurt them economically. 

Protestor Nicole Durden has had to shut down her Milwualkee hair salon amidst the order while facing mounting rent costs and trying to provide for her family. 

“If there’s gonna be certain protocols for smaller business like mine to open, that’s fine, we’ll obey those,” said Durden. “We’ll wear masks, we’ll wear gloves, we’ll disinfect, we’ll sanitize, and we’ll keep a limit on people, but it’s not fair to be completely shut down.”

Dozens of Madison Police officers patrolled the event while outfitted in gasmasks and reflective vests. While the police spectated from the outer rim of Capitol Square throughout the protest, the Madison Police Department reported no incidents related to the rally.

Police were present on the sidelines of the protest throughout the day, clad in protective gear. Photo: Sam Buisman

Similar protests have cropped up across the United States as the coronavirus continues to keep states locked down.

While these protestors showed up in force on Friday, they are in the minority when it comes to staying home. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published earlier this month, almost 60% of Americans are more concerned that the US will move too quickly in removing its coronavirus restrictions than they are over the economic impacts that the restrictions will have.

Counterprotestors circle the Capitol with a Grim Reaper figure with “RONA” written on its skull while yelling “You’re next!” Photo: Sam Buisman

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there are currently 6,081 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, 412 of which are located in Dane County. 

A protestor waves the Gadsden flag at the precipice of the protest. Photo: Sam Buisman