Facebook has removed events promoting anti-shutdown rallies in New Jersey, California, and Nebraska following complaints they violate lockdown rules put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
But the social media site did not take down events promoting a protest in Harrisburg that took place Monday afternoon.
“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”
According to the spokesperson, Facebook has reached out to the commonwealth for guidance on whether Monday’s event and similar protests are permitted under Wolf’s order banning “gatherings of individuals outside of the home” that don’t involve accessing, supporting, or providing “life-sustaining” services.
Pennsylvania officials have advised against Monday’s gathering, which was organized in part by Ohio gun activist Chris Dorr, who created a Facebook group called “Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine.” Dorr and his siblings, Ben and Aaron, manage a slew of pro-gun Facebook groups across several states and are motivated by discrediting organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety, according to the Washington Post.
Troy Thompson, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, pointed out the Capitol complex was closed and public gatherings are not permitted. But Wolf said there were no plans to enforce executive orders during Monday’s protest in Harrisburg.
“Obviously this is a democracy,” Wolf said during a news briefing on Monday. “Everyone has the right to express their opinions. I’m just hoping that they, like every other Pennsylvanian, recognize that we want to keep each other safe.”
Annamarie Scannapieco, an emergency room nurse from Montgomery County running for a state representative seat in the 147th District, helped plan Monday’s rally and said she hoped people would stay in their cars and wear masks.
“Our goal is for a peaceful, responsible, safe rally. Our thought is that people will stay in their cars and practice social distancing," Scannapieco said. “We’re rallying behind the people who are suffering, who are scared or terrified and don’t want to lose their homes. We’re all in this together.”
Anti-lockdown protests have sprouted up across the country, largely in states with Democratic governors. President Donald Trump has encouraged the protesters to “LIBERATE” states and called the protesters “very responsible people,” despite his own guidelines encouraging citizens to “listen and follow all directions from your state and local authorities” and to “avoid social gatherings” with more than 10 people.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said demonstrators should heed social distancing guidelines and not gather in large groups to protest stay-at-home orders.
“If you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back," Fauci said on Good Morning America on Monday. "So as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening, it’s going to backfire.”
Staff writer Erin McCarthy contributed to this article.