By Roxy Hayes-Brown
The 2020 United States Presidential election was unprecedented for a myriad of reasons. Arguably the most significant for many Americans was and remains to be the looming cloud of the disease, COVID-19, commonly referred to as “coronavirus.”
COVID-19 is a condition caused by a specific coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Due to the prevalence of COVID-19, many Americans obviously were not feeling comfortable showing up on Election Day to vote at the polls as evidenced by the huge influx of mail-in ballots. President Donald Trump's campaign dissuaded their following from voting by mail and asked them to show up to polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Because of this, many people estimated a “Red Mirage” or an appearance of Trump to be leading by Tuesday evening would be upended by a “Blue Wave” of Biden votes appearing as mail-in ballots were being processed.
Most of the developed world is well aware of the significant effects brought on by a pandemic, specifically this particular pandemic, yet following the projections of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the President-elect, announced by almost every major news network around 11:30 am on November 7, 2020; by 1:30 pm, hundreds of Michiganders were gathered on the Michigan State Capitol's lawn, largely unmasked and unfazed about the deadly virus that could potentially strike their families. Imagining the amount of concern someone must have to disregard their very life to storm the lawn belonging to the seat of power for their state is an overwhelming act.
Many of the attendees had to start driving to Lansing at the very time the national news was broadcasting their projections to have been among the masses by that afternoon. Trump 2020 and Make America Great Again flags were intermingled with American flags, some of which were dragged behind their owners along the ground. Michigander and aging rockstar Ted Nugent’s music could be heard playing at full-blast from one of the trucks towing a flatbed trailer fashioned into what looked like a makeshift parade float.
Counter-protesters were also in attendance and at one point, violence broke out before being quickly thwarted by riot gear clad Michigan State Police officers. Once the counter-protesters were moved across Allegan Street for what was said by police to be in an effort to protect their safety, the protesters began shouting “Commies go home!” At one point, conflicting chants of “Count the votes,” and “Stop the count,” could be heard coming from different sections of those individuals still collected on the Capitol lawn.
In some jurisdictions around the country, Trump supporters were asking for the vote count to stop where the President was ahead. In other places where Biden was ahead, Trump’s supporters were suspicious that all their votes weren’t being properly accounted for. Throughout the gathering, traffic was blocked or impeded multiple times by those upset with the election results.
Ultimately, these people are uncomfortable enough with the state of their country to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones to speak up. Unfortunately, the often excitable conversations between opposing points of view that lead to greater understanding for all are hard to have these days without the face masks that so many Americans turn to as a signal of mutual respect for shared spaces. In an effort to protect your neighbor from a disease that doesn’t differentiate between red and blue, maybe start there, from a place of empathy.