The memorable images across the country have included men in camo, riding in on pickups with huge U.S. flags fluttering. They’re angry that their governors or other officials are keeping businesses closed and ordering many of our comings and goings to stop, or at least be socially distanced. Sometimes there’s even a guy with a semiautomatic rifle slung across his chest.
Back in 1982, Mann founded Tropical Tan, which would grow to 17 tanning salons in this area. He believes it could be the oldest tanning-salon chain in the country. These days, he and his two sons, Dan Jr., and Michael, are all partners in the business — closed since March 26 after Inslee’s shutdown order. The three drove to Olympia.
Mann knows how the protesters are seen by many in this blue-voting region.
The Northwest Progressive Institute in Redmond put it this way on its website: “Beware the Covidiots: Right-wing protesters flock to Olympia despite stay home orders.”
“I’m a radical?” asks Mann. “I’m a pretty mainstream guy. I’ve been in the 32nd District Democrats for quite a while.”
He lives in Shoreline, and notes he’s been on the school board and served as president of the local Chamber of Commerce.
He and his sons just wanted to believe Inslee was paying attention to a business like theirs, which employs 85 people, many of them single moms, all laid off.
Tropical Tan has already permanently shuttered a salon in Seattle on Aurora Avenue North. It had only been breaking even, Mann says, and the stay-at-home order was the final blow.
“We all know Microsoft and Boeing have access,” says Mann. “I’ve collected sales tax for 38 years to remit to the city and state. For some reason, the governor doesn’t trust me.”
Before the shutdown, Mann says his business was complying with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as putting tape on the floor to mark safe distancing, wiping down all surfaces, using nitrile gloves, allowing only a certain number of clients in at a time.
“I can operate just as safely as Kroger’s or Home Depot, but I am deemed ‘nonessential’ by some nameless bureaucrat in an undisclosed process. Does that sound fair or transparent?” he says.
As the shutdown of many businesses continues in the state, some people don’t like how government is controlling their lives. Polls show they are not the majority, but the reasons for their protests go beyond the images that can capture so much attention.
Some are simply worried about being out of a job. Some are small business owners. Some chafe at what they believe is another infringement of their rights. And yes, some bring the conversation about government around to gun rights or vaccines.
Mann says he and his sons drove to the protest with masks and hand sanitizer. They kept a distance between themselves and others, staying on the fringes of the crowd.
“I wasn’t concerned,” says Mann.
Dan Jr. says that looking around at the rally, yes, “there were a few” of the camo-outfit types.
“Mostly it was normal families,” he says. “People you’d see at the Folklife Festival down at Seattle Center.”
From free hugs to a new gun
Avery Hufford, 25, has a one-man landscaping business in Arlington. He gave up trying to decipher whether it was considered an essential business under Inslee’s order to close all nonessential businesses.
“I see other landscapers working,” he says, so he thought he might as well, too.
Hufford says he considers himself politically independent. He says he’s a fan of the late Milton Friedman, the free market advocate.
“The completely subjective nature of who can and can’t work is appalling,” he says. “I can go to a Walmart or Home Depot and shop, and hundreds could have been in there, polluting the air. But the small, Main Street stores in Arlington are closed.”
Hufford voted for Donald Trump and plans to again. “He’s rich and well-connected, but he doesn’t necessarily go along with the cozy, kind-of politically correct politics,” says Hufford.
A few days after Trump was elected president, there was an anti-Trump rally in Cal Anderson Park on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Hufford showed up to offer free hugs, to show that Trump supporters weren’t scary.
“I gave at least 100 hugs. It was a really good moment,” he says.
Still, Hufford really isn’t much for Seattle liberal politics.
“Most of the metro areas, which are complete cesspools, filled with progressive leaders, are the worst parts of our country,” he says.
He tells of seeing in Wallingford an abandoned construction site used as an encampment. “Tarps, piles of trash, really gross. I grew up in this area. It didn’t used to look like that,” he says.
Hufford does possess a certain sense of humor. On his Facebook page, he posted a photo of himself holding a shotgun.
“The government gives me $1,200. Obviously a lot of that money went to tools etc for my business … but I just had to get a gun with it also. Thank you Federal Government.”
He says it’s a $100 Hatfield single-shot shotgun he bought at Walmart, to join the pistol he owns. “I’ll have it for self-defense,” says Hufford.
Mom out of a job
Ashley Cooper, 32, lives in Goldendale near the Columbia River Gorge. She’s married to a corrections officer. They have three children. She works part-time as a bartender, or did, until the shutdown.
She considers herself a Libertarian and says she became interested in politics at 16, reading about the Federal Reserve and the gold standard.
“I’m not a typical person,” she says.
Cooper attended Lake Washington High School until 10th grade.
“I found school too boring,” she says. She switched to Lake Washington Technical College, which allows kids to get a two-year degree while completing high school.
She became a mom at 18 and married her then-boyfriend.
One of the issues that drives Cooper is vaccinations. She says her two oldest children have been “vaccine injured,” and she has not vaccinated her youngest child. On a website Cooper created, she posted last year about “the huge amount of opposition and abuse of ‘anti vaxxers’ and the screaming for the states and federal government to remove (vaccination) exemptions for children to go to school.”
Her stance goes against a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement that “Vaccines are very safe,” stemming, for instance, from the many scientific studies that have debunked any notion of a link between autism and childhood vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella.
Cooper took a handmade sign to Olympia: “My constitutional rights are more important than your fear.”
She says she sees how the shutdown has affected a small community such as Goldendale. Her bartending job is on hold.
“We don’t have a Walmart or Fred Meyer here. This county is entirely small businesses, and they weren’t able to get any of the small business loan money. It ran out immediately. They’re not able to file for unemployment because they don’t have a salary; they’re owners,” she says.
She did not take a mask or hand sanitizer to Olympia.
The sanitizer, she says, “is full of chemicals.”
As for the coronavirus, “There are thousands of viruses and germs and bacteria everywhere coming into contact with you.”
Upset over medical care
Beth Jump, 43, lives in Redmond, is married to a software engineer and has three kids. She had never been to a political rally.
Her Facebook posts show the family vacationing in Maui, inner-tubing in the mountains, going Dec. 22 to watch “Cats the Movie” at the Bellevue Cinemark Dine-In — 21 and Over. She has a business, “Baskets by Beth,” putting together homemade gifts.
“I wasn’t there to endorse any candidate whatsoever,” she says of the Olympia protest. “I was there out of frustration, and anger.” she says.
But then came the notice from the clinic.
Her oldest child, Tyler Jump, 20, in January had broken a knee in three places while playing basketball. He was on crutches for eight weeks, and, she says, developed thrombosis. Put on blood thinners, he was set to have an ultrasound scan to check progress.
Under the shutdown order, the ultrasound became nonessential.
The clinic, says Jump, offered to conduct a “virtual appointment.”
The mom was infuriated. “How can you do a virtual ultrasound?”
(Since then, she says, the clinic agreed to conduct an in-person scan.)
Jump drove to Staples, bought a piece of poster board, and with a Sharpie, wrote: “My child has a life threatening medical condition and is being denied treatment.”
She took her sign to Olympia.
Jump didn’t take a mask with her but did bring along hand sanitizer.
“I parked around the parimeter. I didn’t touch anyone,” she says. “I used common sense.”
Jump also says, “You can just as easily pick up a virus at Costco or Walmart.”
She brought her poster board back home.
“I’m going to keep it for a long time,” she says. “It’s a keepsake.”
The rally was organized by Tyler Miller, 39, of Bremerton. He’s an engineering technician who works at the submarine maintenance Trident Refit Facility in Bangor.
A Navy vet, married with two daughters, he is a Kitsap County Republican Party precinct committee officer. He does not approve of Inslee’s ban on gatherings.
So, on March 15, he established the Facebook page “Liberty, At All Hazards.”
Miller wrote about the constitutional right to peaceably assemble, “If the framers wanted to allow for exceptions, they would have chosen different language.”
Miller now is spending two weeks working from home, he says, after coworkers complained to management about having to be in proximity to someone who had attended such a large gathering.
He says he’s not part of any sort of manufactured protest associated with national right-wing groups, as various news reports have said about such events.
He says that after three weeks, some 200 people said they’d attend. At that number, says Miller, “It reached a critical mass and took a life of its own.”
In light of Inslee’s announcement Wednesday that the shutdown would extend past May 4, Miller says he’s planning another protest in Olympia May 9.