Scratching the surface

This was the scene in Harrisburg on April 20. While it’d be easy to write of this protest as extreme, is there a method to this madness? Our editor opines. | Image: Robert Costa/Twitter

About a month ago, a few days after protesters stormed the steps of the state capitol for the first time, I wrote an op-ed highlighting the ill-informed and even iller-intentioned demands from the horde to reopen the state at once. 

However on the flip side of that column, I noted that in a weird way I could see the underlying reason to risk exposure and that was to get some semblance of life back, one filled with steady paychecks and a subconscious sense of security – for the most part. 

Having life uprooted over something you can’t control is terrifyingly upsetting. Life in my own home has been irrevocably altered in that our childcare is gone, pay has decreased while expenses have remained. It’s the same for most, I’d assume. 

But the difference in our case is we didn’t pull out our registered firearm and drive 80 miles to let the governor know how we felt. It’s your right as an American, sure, but at what risk? It’s become pretty apparent that when it comes to looking out for your fellow man, for many in parts of this country, that ship has definitely left the dock. 

We’re seeing other states that chose to jump the gun and restart their economies having COVID-19 cases go through another surge. Just this week, a top official with the World Health Organization said that to assume a round two of the virus to not be a reality would be foolish. 

But in that column I wrote for our April 23 edition aptly entitled “Seeing Both Sides,” I did provide an out that, while foolish to think that protest could sway the notion of one of the hardest hit states in country, Pennsylvania, in a weird way I was picking up what they were trying to convey. 

“It’s become pretty apparent that when it comes to looking out for your fellow man, for many in parts of this country, that ship has definitely left the dock.”

This week, I received an awesome follow-up to that column from reader Meg Linck, a student at Walnut Hill College, who made some really good points. She claims my piece only scratches the surface and expertly explained why. This week, I wanted to run her response in full and ask, what do you think? Did Meg hit the nail on the head? What is she missing? What am I missing from all of this? Hit us at and we’ll look to share in a future issue. 

Meg, thank you for reading and this solid response. 

To Kerith Gabriel, Editor of Philadelphia Weekly, 

I appreciate your insight on the protests against the stay at home order on April 20, however I feel that the article as a whole only grazed the surface of the issue. The people cued up outside the state capitol, with signs and guns (yes, guns), shouting about how “only the strongest will survive” and “Land of the Free” not only showed that our state’s empathy is gone but that our justice system is cracked. 

Although the First Amendment gives Americans freedom of speech and the freedom to [peacefully] assemble, all this was thrown out the window when people showed up with AR-15 assault rifles. The fact that people all over the county are threatening people due to these orders, that are put into place for our safety, and the police say nothing is abominable. In some cases, stores have even backed down on their restrictions due to these threats.  

If this were a protest for “Black Lives Matter,” the police would be all [over] it. But as it was a group of privileged middle-class people arguing for their right to “freedom,” the police sat back and watched. These people are saying that their “freedom” to leave their house without a mask, to go to the salon, sit in a restaurant, or get a haircut is more important than our lives and our healthcare system. 

Although their hate speech may be protected under First Amendment rights, it does not make it right. Our country needs to stand up against such acts of aggression. If our authorities back down we are letting, to use your selection of words, “a collection of right-winged dumbasses” win. 

I don’t want to live in a place where that is true. Do you?

– Meg Linck, student at Walnut Hill College | Philadelphia

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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