Protesters in Madison on April 24, 2020. Photo by Robert Chappell
By Rob Chappel – Madison365 About 1,500 people gathered in defiance of Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order on Friday to protest the order and demand the state “reopen.” A permit for the event was denied this week, but Governor Tony Evers said he believes in the First Amendments right to free speech and freedom to assemble, and trusted people to stay six feet apart to avoid spreading coronavirus.
Protesters gather in Madison on April 24, 2020. Photo: Robert Chappell
The vast majority of those in attendance did not remain six feet apart. A few wore face masks; many wore face masks hanging around their necks. Just before the rally began, organizer Madison Elmer told the crowd that Madison police had denied permission to place portable toilets in the Philosopher’s Grove area at the top of State Street. More than a dozen Madison police wearing gas masks lined the outer ring of the Capitol Square, on the side of the street where they have jurisdiction; the Capitol Square itself is the responsibility of Capitol Police. Only a few Capitol Police officers could be seen outside the Capitol building. Neither police department intervened in the event, as it was peaceful and there were no arrests or citations.
Police, wearing gas masks, patrol State Street on April 24, 2020. Photo: Robert Chappell
The rally opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, followed by an opening prayer and three brief Evangelical Christian sermons. Dr. Timothy Allen, a family physician from Cudahy who owns his own practice with his wife, said COVID19 is bad, but the shutdown of the economy and social lives is just as dangerous. “I’m not coming here to say the World Health Organization is bad,” he said, prompting a chorus of boos. “I’m not here to say they’re bad people. They’re trying to do the best they can for you. These people are trying hard, but the problem is that they have to close of a focus. They’re looking at too small of a thing.” The world health community and government focus on COVID19 leaves people vulnerable to other dangers, Allen argued. As an example, Allen claimed falsely that New York paramedics have been instructed to conduct no CPR “under any conditions.” Allen noted that heart disease is the leading killer of people in the United States and said — again, falsely — that heart disease is the cause of one in every two deaths in the world. “One person of every two dies of heart disease. You can’t put COVID over them,” Allen said. “I imagine some of you, since 50% of you will die of heart disease, would like CPR at some point.” In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, accounting for about 30 percent of deaths, not 50. And New York paramedics have been instructed not to attempt to resuscitate people who have no pulse, whereas in the past, they would have been instructed to attempt to revise someone for 20 minutes before giving up. That order does not preclude CPR in all cases. Protesters carried signs critical of Evers and in praise of former governor Scott Walker, as well as Trump flags and signs with slogans like “Unessential Lives Matter,” “Open Wisconsin Now” and “End the Pandemic, Shut Down 5G” — a reference to a conspiracy theory that new 5G cellular phone towers are behind the virus.
A woman carries a sign during a protest in Madison on April 24, 2020. Photo: Robert Chappell
The rally opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, followed by an opening prayer and three brief Evangelical Christian sermons. Dr. Timothy Allen, a family physician from Cudahy who owns his own practice with his wife, said COVID19 is bad, but the shutdown of the economy and social lives is just as dangerous. “I’m not coming here to say the World Health Organization is bad,” he said, prompting a chorus of boos. “I’m not here to say they’re bad people. They’re trying to do the best they can for you. These people are trying hard, but the problem is that they have to close of a focus. They’re looking at too small of a thing.” The world health community and government focus on COVID19 leaves people vulnerable to other dangers, Allen argued. As an example, Allen claimed falsely that New York paramedics have been instructed to conduct no CPR “under any conditions.” Allen noted that heart disease is the leading killer of people in the United States and said — again, falsely — that heart disease is the cause of one in every two deaths in the world. “One person of every two dies of heart disease. You can’t put COVID over them,” Allen said. “I imagine some of you, since 50% of you will die of heart disease, would like CPR at some point.” In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, accounting for about 30 percent of deaths, not 50. And New York paramedics have been instructed not to attempt to resuscitate people who have no pulse, whereas in the past, they would have been instructed to attempt to revise someone for 20 minutes before giving up. That order does not preclude CPR in all cases. Protesters carried signs critical of Evers and in praise of former governor Scott Walker, as well as Trump flags and signs with slogans like “Unessential Lives Matter,” “Open Wisconsin Now” and “End the Pandemic, Shut Down 5G” — a reference to a conspiracy theory that new 5G cellular phone towers are behind the virus.
A woman carries a sign at an April 24, 2020 rally in Madison. Photo: Robert Chappell
There were no Confederate flags as have been seen at similar “Reopen” rallies in Wisconsin and elsewhere. There were more than a dozen men and at least one woman openly carrying rifles, however.
A handful of protesters were armed with rifles at an April 24, 2020 rally in Madison. Photo: Rob Chappell
A small number of counter protesters also came to the Square. Two women who said they were nurses wore scrubs and held signs; one said “Please go home” and the other said “COVID19 Overwhelms hospitals. In overwhelmed hospitals, more people die. You can save lives, too. Please stay home.” Photos by Robert Chappell:

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“It’s not just that people get really sick,” said one of the nurses. “It’s that if people get sick at the same time, we can’t help everyone. It’s too contagious.” Another counterprotest took place Thursday night, as nurses put out 1,300 candles — one for each person hospitalized with COVID19 in Wisconsin. And a virtual “Safer at Home Rally” is set for this weekend. Today’s rally took place on the day with the single largest increase in cases of the pandemic — 344 new cases were confirmed today, to bring the statewide total to 5,436. Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Madison365 and is republished by permission. Read more at Madison365.com.