And make no mistake, the protests unfolding all over the country are violating quarantine in any number of ways. Remember that many places are still under stay-at-home orders, and people are only supposed to go outside for essential work or allowable recreation in small numbers. On the plus side, some protesters are thankfully wearing masks, and their activities are unfolding outdoors, which are both factors that work to stop the spread of the virus. But the sheer number of people involved, packed tightly together, often engaging in high-spread activities—like yelling—certainly override much of the benefit. Even Denver protesters, whose comparatively restrained demonstration involved gathering in a public place and lying prone on the ground for eight minutes—the amount of time Floyd’s alleged killer had a knee on Floyd’s neck—shouted “I can’t breathe,” the entire time.
Holding police accountable is a very important cause. But the logic of the lockdowns was that they were so necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19 that they should override other pressing concerns. Small business owners were forced to shutter, and many will close permanently, because policymakers ordained that slowing the pandemic was the top priority. Daring to reopen was an “experiment in human sacrifice,” a dangerous practice akin to riding an alligator while yelling yeehaw. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has fought to prevent churches from reopening to the public, characteristically said the protesters were “rightfully outraged.” He did not scold them to go back inside before they get their grandparents killed.