Demonstrators carry a variety of signs, including calls to stop the tyranny and to “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” at a Saturday rally to ReOpen Burlington and the state. (Photo by Jason Arndt)


By Mike Ramczyk


Most protests are designed to be law-abiding.

People are allowed to do almost anything they want, right or wrong, for an allotted amount of time as a matter of free speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

These protest tend bring out the best and worst in society.

That dichotomy of extremes was on full display Saturday afternoon at Echo Park in Burlington, where more than 100 protesters showed up to plead their case to reopen Wisconsin.

They are sick and tired of staying at home, they want to show everyone they own American flags, and for some reason, they need everyone to know they are voting for President Donald Trump to be re-elected in 2020.

Different speakers stood in front of the hallowed veterans memorial, a beautiful display roughly 50 yards from a busy, bustling Milwaukee Avenue full of traffic, and proclaimed it’s time to reopen bars, restaurants and other small businesses in the state.

Of course, the speakers failed to mention that COVID-19, or coronavirus, continues to plague the country and threaten our way of life, and more cases and deaths are recorded every day.

“They want to keep this town going. There’s students who want to go to school. They want to learn. They want to be there. We heard a lot of abuse happens at this time,” said organizer Micah Gebel, former owner of the Grater Tater restaurant.

“Most of the business owners – some of them are here – have had to get so creative with curbside. They’re not whining, but they’re concerned for their employees. They want to get them back to work. They care about them.”

The crowd, many holding signs and American flags, cheered when Gebel mentioned small business owners.

OK, I understand kids want to go back to school and restaurants want to be open –everyone understands that.

But there is a global pandemic sweeping across our country and affecting our way of life. It all comes down to the value of human life vs. the value of economic stability. There is a tipping point, but we’re not there yet.


Protests are not safe right now

For all the good intentions, there were behaviors on display that detracted from the message.

We can’t congregate in large groups. The virus has not been curbed. Coronavirus can live on surfaces for weeks. People can have it and not show symptoms.

Some reports indicate it is 10 times more deadly than the regular flu.

“Barely anyone wearing a mask. And they couldn’t even give room between each other. That’s the true way to get noticed. Not smart,” said Randy Schneider.

In one video I shot, you can see a man licking his fingers before handing out a flyer. The Center for Disease Control specifically warns people to not touch their faces.

Few people in the crowd adhered to social distancing protocol, as participants came together in solidarity.

And the largest, most egregious error of judgment occurred at the playground, where 40 to 50 kids and their parents played as if nothing were wrong despite two signs stating in large letters, “Attention, the Playground is closed until further notice.”

These poor kids played and frolicked in utopia like it was all good, while these ignorant, entitled parents smiled and played along.

I’m sorry, folks, you can’t just do whatever you want and disobey the law of common sense, just because it’s America.

That isn’t freedom.

That isn’t the constitution.

And that certainly isn’t responsible parenting.

These people care so much about being “right,” defying authority and the delusion of “freedom” that they went to irresponsible lengths to get their point across.

They may not have gotten each other sick Saturday, but what happens when they come in contact with a stranger in the following days, especially an elderly one, and someone gets sick?

Was it worth it?


Playground laws deliberately disobeyed

I tried to ask two Burlington police officers why people could play on the playground despite it being closed, and they claimed since the mayor opened the park for the protest it was OK.

One said he would eventually tell the crowd – which clearly violated coronavirus protocol that doctors and nurses have died trying to uphold – to move along.

City of Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty did an admirable job reacting to this protest.

There were bound to be people who were going to do whatever they wanted.

But even she wasn’t a fan of the playground usage.

“We were asking people to abide by recommendations by CDC and the governor’s mandate,” Hefty said. “It was reported that traffic showed disapproval of not abiding social distancing and going on the playground that was banned for use.”

“The police presence was to assure and maintain a peaceful and orderly demonstration. There were no arrests or citations given.”

I’m not an evil guy who wishes illness and death on people I don’t agree with.

I sincerely hope the 100-plus that risked their health to prove a point and basically whine about something they can’t change don’t get sick and find peace in their struggle.

As those with signs forced their agenda into the faces of oncoming cars, one kid yelled out the window, “I hope you get coronavirus” and a verbal spat broke out.

As I stated earlier, protests can bring out the worst in society.


Without your health, you have nothing

I was truly floored by the lack of care and safety on display Saturday.

So I implore you, even if you were one of the people playing on that playground, stay inside!

Keep 6 feet of distance from others.

Wash your hands for 20 seconds often.

Don’t touch things in public places.

Wear a mask around large crowds.

If you’re sick, do NOT leave the house.

And don’t touch your face.

This isn’t a game.

People are dying, and who knows where this is going to go? It could get worse before it gets better.

But we must step up, take care of our families and abide by the rules and laws.

I’ll leave you with this: Is your hurt pride and ego more important than your life?

“Give me liberty or give me death,” one sign read Saturday.

That’s a bunch of bull. This is temporary and done in the interest of public health.

You have liberty. You are alive. You get to breathe the air.

You get to wake up every day, God willing. Some of you are fortunate enough to have a family that loves you.

Some of you don’t have a job right now.

You have the rest of your life to work.

If you don’t have your health, you have nothing.

Personal liberty – at least in this instance – isn’t going to save anyone.

      Mike Ramczyk lives in Burlington. The views expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of Southern Lakes Newspapers or its staff.