Covid activists, like AIDS activists, are taking on government inaction
It's empowering -- and important -- to loudly protest government officials' criminal negligence
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With so much illness and death due to coronavirus many people are experiencing grief and anger.
But like AIDS activists in the 1980s, it’s time to turn anger, fear and grief into action.
Kristin Urquiza did just that after experiencing the terrible death of her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza. He’d stayed in during the lockdown in Arizona but believed government officials, including Governor Doug Ducey, when they lifted the restrictions and said it was safe to go back to work and to other activities.
She wrote a letter to the governor, inviting him to the funeral:
I write to invite you to the burial of my father, Mark Anthony Urquiza. He was one of the 88 Arizonans who died on June 30, 2020 from COVID-19. Despite having a huge family and many friends he died alone with an ICU nurse holding his hand.
My father contracted the virus during the period when you forbade local governments from implementing their own safety measures, such as mandating the wearing of masks, to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19 through Executive Order 2020-36. As a master of public affairs, I can attest that poor policy and terrible leadership was responsible for his death.
Ducey didn’t respond. But Kristin Urquiza wasn’t daunted. She then wrote and published an obituary in the Arizona Republic, slamming political leaders and receiving international attention for it.
I interviewed her last week on my SiriusXM show and she talked about the website she created, MarkedbyCovid, to raise awareness and help others organize. Inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt, she is working with others to create a political movement honoring the dead with quilts focusing on each coronavirus victim, which can be laid outside government buildings. And she’s organizing a national day of protest for August 13th.
Thomas Kennedy, an immigration activist who is Florida state coordinator for UnitedWeDream, stood up and interrupted remarks by Florida governor Ron DeSantis, whose state has now become the epicenter of the conronavirus pandemic. Kennedy focused on the number of people dead — then over 4000 — which clearly rattled DeSantis, who has downplayed the deaths and is now on the defensive after having boasted of Florida being a model early on.
“Resign!” Kennedy yelled, as security tried to escort him out. DeSantis is a brutally ignorant politician, a Trumpian who has no care or concern for how he mismanaged the pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting people of color — a message that both Kristin Urquiza and Thomas Kennedy underscore as Latinx activists. Yes, DeSantis will try to ignore the message of the people who challenge him. But it’s so important those confrontations happen — live in front of the cameras.
Thomas Kennedy also came on my show last week and talked about why he decided to shout down the governor on July 13th when he was giving remarks to the media:
There needs to be more push back, both from politicians — from local elected officials, state-level elected officials — and from the media…The governor needs to be challenged. He has gone out there, in press conferences, repeating falsehoods, cherry-picking data….He needs to do his job and he needs to take responsibility for what’s happening.
The criminal negligence of the governors who are bowing to Trump, allowing coronavirus to explode in their states, must be highlighted.
With a media that often is fearful of confronting politicians because they might sacrifice access, activism is vital to bring the message forward. It forces media to take notice and the get the message out to the public, and even emboldens reporters to get tougher in their questioning, as Thomas Kennedy also noted.
I hope he and Kristin Urquiza and other covid activists inspire many more, just as AIDS activists did over 30 years ago.
Activists have historically greatly helped to bring change to this country throughout its history. We should all be thankful for their courage and voices. Particularly with the current crisis since they are being “arrested” by mystery police in Portland.
Thanks for this. We need to pick up the mantle of Larry Kramer and it’s good to see these people sparking the fire.