Now, going out for a mass protest during a once-in-a-century pandemic is risky, and some of the protesters have not been careful about keeping their distance or wearing masks. That is irresponsible — people should be careful when they are outside in groups, no matter what the reason. On the other hand, it is a lot more justifiable to take to the streets to stop an ongoing plague of appalling police violence than it is to demand Pottery Barn be reopened.
But more importantly, the state response to the protests has showed the same negligence about containment that most parts of the American government have evinced for the last several months. From the very start of the pandemic the Trump administration has done almost nothing to actually contain its spread. We do not have a national test, trace, and isolate system, and we are not going to get one so long as Trump remains president. A few states have set up test-and-trace systems, but so far they are in their initial stages of deployment, and with the possible exception of Vermont, none so far has proved to be able to contain the virus for a prolonged period.
Trump won’t even try to reinforce simple behavioral norms. German Chancellor Angela Merkel at least urged protesters in her country to wear masks and keep distant during protests, but Trump has never once mentioned such a thing. On the contrary, he and many of his senior staff refuse to model wearing masks in public at all, and he has repeatedly fueled a broader right-wing grievance complex attacking lockdowns as some kind of liberal conspiracy.