Tea Party 2.0? Reopen Government Protests Linked To Right-Wing Donors

April 21, 2020

The ongoing protests endanger public health, but are supported by Trump and may be funded by right-wing donors.

The ongoing protests endanger public health, but are supported by Trump and may be funded by right-wing donors.


Photo courtesy of Marc Zenn

Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Protestor: This is a free country. Land of the free.

Jaisal Noor: Medical workers stood in the middle of the road, blocking a car carrying an anti-lockdown protester in Denver, Colorado on Sunday, April 19th. The protestor was part of the many small scale, but highly publicized Reopen America protest, leaned out of the window to confront the man in medical scrubs, holding a poster reading Land Free and shouting, “You go to work. Why can’t I go to work?” President Donald Trump has encouraged these demonstrations, many of which have targeted democratic governors and have been linked to billionaire donors. That’s despite the mounting evidence they can jeopardize public health. Kentucky’s infection rates skyrocketed a week after the protest there.

The protest had been tied to Michigan’s DeVos family, billionaires who are leading Republican donors and activists. The DeVos family includes Erik Prince, Founder of Blackwater, and Betsy DeVos, the heiress who serves as Donald Trump’s Education Secretary. The DeVos family’s also a leading member of the Koch Donor Network who bankroll conservative causes and it turns out who are major backers of the supposedly Grassroots Tea Party Movement, which called for less government and lower taxes. Real News climate reporter Steve Horn says, “Right wing billionaires have funded an ecosystem that greatly amplifies their message through organizations like the State Policy Network.”

Steve Horn: The State Policy Network essentially is the think tank world of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, and it’s what gets these ideas out there. So in Michigan when this protest was happening, a different prong of this apparatus called the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, they were doing reporting on this from their own portal, and then they beamed out the protests. They linked to something on Breitbart. So Breitbart then beamed that out to 5.8 million people. And essentially, this was the perfect depiction of how the right wing echo chamber works, the legacy of it and the newer prongs of it’s a Breitbart is funded and bankrolled, or at least was by the Mercer family. And Mercer is and was a major backer of Trump. Steve Bannon, who was a top White House aide.

Jaisal Noor: More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past month as closures of businesses and schools and severe travel restrictions have hammered the economy. The United States is by far the world’s largest number of confirmed cases with more than 740,000 infections and over 40,000 deaths. Though, the real numbers are said to be much higher. Professor Gerald Horne says this movement represents a dangerous development.

Gerald Horne: But these so called constitutional conservatives rallying at the state house in Lansing, Michigan, this was coupled with similar moves that are taking place in Idaho, which you may recall is the state that is the de facto headquarters of White supremacists, a number of the leaders of the August, 2017 pro Nazi and pro fascist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia actually had roots in Idaho. And I’m afraid to say that this is also coupled with the spectacular rise in gun sales that is taking place as we speak.

Jaisal Noor: “Congress’ Coronavirus bailout had little funding for workers or testing, while giving corporations a $6 trillion no strings attached bailout,” says American Prospect editor David Dayen.

David Dayen: Reopening the economy, you really can only do that if we have the proper public health measures in place, the proper testing and things like that. And there was almost no money in this pandemic response bill to actually respond to the pandemic to actually bulk up testing and surge it so that you actually could reopen the country.

Jaisal Noor: For the Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.