Facebook said on Monday that it has removed posts that are organizing anti-quarantine events in Nebraska, California and New Jersey, citing guidance from their state governments that the protests violate stay-at-home orders.
“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook,” said a company spokesperson. “For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”
The organizers of the events have depended on Facebook as a platform for driving turnout to the protests, which have drawn in the hundreds in some cases. In Denver, there was a standoff between demonstrators and health care workers, including one who blocked a pickup displaying a “Land of the Free” sign.
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Events across the country were widely covered during the weekend, as President Donald Trump offered support for the demonstrators even though in some instances they contradict his administration’s own guidelines for maintaining social distancing. The White House on Thursday unveiled a set of criteria for states to use in determining whether to reopen their economies, but the next day Trump issued a series of tweets calling to “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. He told reporters that the states’ policies are too restrictive.
Demonstrators have waved American flags as well as Trump campaign flags.
Facebook’s decision drew quick pushback from some activists on the right. Candace Owens, a pro-Trump commentator, wrote on Twitter, “Does Facebook realize that disallowing citizens the right to peaceful assembly is in violation of the First Amendment of our Constitution?”
Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on CNN on Sunday that while he understands the frustrations of continued quarantines, “I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president’s own policy. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Sunday showed that 58% of registered voters said that they worried about lifting restrictions too soon, compared to 32% who are concerned that it will take too long.
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