75,000 deaths yet some Americans choose to fight lockdowns

The United States has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic but that hasn't stopped citizens from rebelling against lockdown measures - taking to the streets in protest, some armed with guns and others willingly choosing jail time for breaking the rules.

Resentment has swelled across the country as restrictions cripple the economy. Despite the US leading the death toll, right-wing activists have hit the streets across several states over the past month to protest lockdown rules and demand businesses re-open.

President Donald Trump has pushed for states to ease restrictions on businesses - and now some Americans are openly flouting the rules and being arrested in dramatic scenes.

In some parts of the country, leaders are bowing to the rebellion.

This week a SWAT team faced off with seven armed men after a Texas bar owner defied lockdown restrictions and reopened.

 

The heavily-armed men and other protesters stood guard in front of Big Daddy Zane's as Texas troopers rolled in and came to a stand-off.

Eight people, including owner Gabrielle Ellison, were arrested and charged.

The Ector County Sheriff's Office confronted the armed men.
The Ector County Sheriff's Office confronted the armed men.

 

Texas State Troopers advance at Big Daddy Zane's.
Texas State Troopers advance at Big Daddy Zane's.

 

Restrictions were relaxed in the state last week with restaurants and stores allowed to re-open - but bars were not.

"We're here to inspire the American people to stand up.

"Every single one of my buddies just got arrested for doing nothing wrong, all of our rifles were slinged," Phillip Archibald with Open Texas told KWES.

Wyatt Winn stands with a gun outside Big Daddy Zane's bar.
Wyatt Winn stands with a gun outside Big Daddy Zane's bar.

 

A Dallas salon owner who defied the lockdown laws was given the option of paying a fine and apologising or serving jail time. She chose the latter.

Shelley Luther - who last month tore up a cease-and-desist letter in front of TV cameras at an Open Texas rally - was fined $7,000 and sentenced to seven days behind bars this week for continually flouting the shutdown rules and keeping her salon open.

"Feeding my kids is not selfish," she told Dallas County Judge Eric Moye.

"If you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon."

After only serving a few hours in jail, Texas governor Greg Abbott amended his executive order and ordered Ms Luther be set free.

Shelley Luther addresses supporters after her release.
Shelley Luther addresses supporters after her release.

 

Ms Luther's arrest inspired protests by conservative activists and lead to an online fundraising campaign that raised more than $500,000 for the salon owner.

As Ms Luther ended her short jail stay and left wearing a face mask, supporters chanted "Shelley's free! Shelley's free!".

Ms Luther also received a show of support this week from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who visited the salon.

Governor Abbott said his updated order should also see the release of two other women who were arrested for continuing to sell cosmetic services from their homes.

Texas has had more than 35,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the death toll is nearing 1000. Last month two armed men were seen in a shopping centre and said they were "protecting the constitutional rights of businesses wanting to open".

Shortly after making his announcement, Governor Abbott met with President Donald Trump to discuss the easing of restrictions.

"We should not be taking these people and put them behind bars, these people who have spent their life building up a business," Abbott said. When Trump asked about the arrest of the beauty salon owner, Abbott said she had been released.

"Good," Trump said.

As protests have taken place across the US and people demand businesses to reopen, Trump has appeared to encourage the rebellion and said some Democratic governors had been "unreasonable" with their restrictions. State governors across America hold most of the power with enforcing lockdown restrictions.

"There are a lot of protests out there. And I just think that some of the governors have gotten carried away," President Trump said.

America has become the epicentre of the pandemic, with all 50 states reporting cases of COVID-19 and more than 76,512 deaths recorded. There have been more than one million confirmed cases in the country.

- With The Sun

Originally published as How Americans have fought lockdowns