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COVID-19 has removed many parts of our lives that we have taken for granted pre-pandemic. Our ability to assemble in large groups, go out to eat, shop or participate in any form of event where we would be gathering in an area with other people.
Another option we enjoyed having the choice to partake in? Our First Amendment right to protest. This shutdown of the activities we enjoy is in our best interests. It is not to oppress us or to take away our constitutional rights. The Constitution, which we refer to for upholding our rights, doesn’t have any plan regarding what to do during a pandemic. This has resulted in federal and local governments initiating certain restrictions on our freedoms to protect the nation as a whole.
While we’re referencing the Constitution, let’s remember the parts of it that are designed to give the federal government power, especially for what is not explicitly stated. The Supremacy Clause in Article VI gives the national government authority over the states. Additionally, the Necessary and Proper Clause in Article I gives Congress the ability to act as it sees fit to best govern.
Both of these clauses were written to provide and assure the federal government would have the power to act in times not written or explained in the Constitution. The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of one of these times.
The federal government encouraged the shutdown of public places, only keeping essential businesses open. We also had the relationship between the federal and local governments to enforce what the federal government advised. Our elected leaders were acting as they saw fit to keep us safe, and they have been guaranteed this power by the Constitution.
The claim that the right to protest is still relevant during a pandemic and that it’s an essential activity is not a claim that considers the health of a nation’s people or someone concerned about the spreading of COVID-19. Physically protesting is not an essential activity during this time, because it puts those protesting in danger of spreading the virus, as well as those they come in contact with after assembling.
No matter the precautions taken, such as staying 6 feet apart or wearing masks, it’s in no way safer than following the guidelines of staying at home.
If we are told to stay home for our health and our community’s health, we should stay home. Physically protesting is not essential to violate a stay-at-home order or guideline. We have the ability to protest from the safety of our homes. We can create and sign digital petitions; we can call our authority figures or reach out to them to inform them of our views.
Just a few weeks ago, protest on social media regarding the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery led to the arrest of a former police officer and his son. We can protest at home and still make progress toward our beliefs — without putting ourselves and others in danger from COVID-19.
Payton Thomas is a graduating senior at Concord High School. She wrote this column for her journalism class in response to “Protest is essential, even amid growing coronavirus crisis,” a Times editorial published April 17.