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President Donald Trump urged government officials in Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota to “liberate” in a series of tweets Friday and described in one post how Second Amendment rights are “under siege.”
“Liberate,” “Liberate the USA” and multiple other versions of the phrase were trending on Twitter as of Friday afternoon.
At least one protest was held in Kentucky, where demonstrators gathered Friday morning for a "Caravan at the Capital” in Frankfort, according to a report from the Louisville Courier-Journal.
"We are losing our rights as Kentuckians," stated an online flyer, obtained by the outlet. "[Gov. Andy Beshear] needs to know he works for us!!!"
A different protest was held hours later and roughly 750 miles away in St. Paul, Minnesota, where “Liberate Minnesota” demonstrators planned to meet from noon to 3 p.m. local time.
“Minnesota's economy must be reopened for business or destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Minnesota citizens and their families may result if we don't act quickly!” states a description on the event’s Facebook page. “If we continue to shutter our businesses and cease production in Minnesota that our economy will be dealt a death blow.”
States including Michigan, Ohio, Wyoming and Virginia were among others where residents protested their states’ orders to stay home unless they had jobs that were deemed “essential.”
Some of the protests have been small events, promoted via Facebook groups that have popped up in recent days. The largest so far was a rally of thousands that jammed the streets of Lansing, Michigan, on Wednesday.
A protest is scheduled for Friday evening in Redmond, Oregon, and multiple have been planned in other states this weekend, including in North Dakota.
The signs of frustration come as Trump has pushed for easing stay-at-home orders and tried to look ahead to restarting the economy. He unveiled a framework for governors to follow Thursday but acknowledged the governors will have the final say on when their states are ready. Health experts have warned that lifting restrictions too quickly could result in a surge of new cases of the virus.
About 22 million Americans, or one in seven workers, have applied for unemployment benefits in the past month alone. And as of Friday afternoon, at least 679,374 COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States.
But some states have been hit significantly harder than others.
New York, for example, is leading the nation in reported cases with at least 223,699, followed by New Jersey with 75,317, whereas eight states, such as North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and West Virginia, are still reporting case numbers in the triple digits, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.
As for whether the outrage will grow to become full-on civil unrest, former Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy told FOX Business he doesn’t expect to see the public protests escalate into lawlessness but added, “it’s really a coin toss.”
“People are antsy, I could feel it myself,” McCarthy said Friday when reached by phone. “You don't know how desperate people are going to get. People don't have money, and so many places got shut down – restaurants, bars, all local, small businesses. And people are struggling.”
McCarthy, who also boasts more than 25 years as a ranking member of the New York City Police Department, noted that people who are facing the burdens of being out of work with bills to pay might in turn act out.
“The money is not coming in, but the bills are certainly still coming in. And people are very frustrated,” he said. “I think you're going to see individual incidents where people crack under the pressure, but I don't predict any sort of widespread problem.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.