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Armstrong Williams / June 2, 2022

The Public Was Uninvited From Memorial Day U.S. Capitol Celebration

Allowing the public to memorialize troops who fought and died for us is more advantageous to our general health than the implications of COVID-19 spreading at an outdoor event.

The 2022 PBS National Memorial Day Concert took place outside the United States Capitol, but you probably weren’t there to witness it. While congressional VIPs and their guests were invited, the exclusive, nationally televised PBS event was closed to the public.

Hundreds of armed Capitol Police officers patrolled the perimeter to protect the few people who were allowed to attend. But you would be mistaken if you believed that there was a massive crowd, and that bad actors would attempt to attack in order to inflict the most harm. In reality, just 500 spectators were permitted to witness the event from a comfortable viewing distance. The rest of us unfortunate, unconnected folks were never informed — unless someone happened to stumble upon a specific section of the concert’s website — nor were we offered the option to view it on a large screen from a distance. Thousands of spectators gathered by the Capitol to see a performance that they were not permitted to view.

If you are affluent, famous or just know the right people, you have no cause for concern. You will have the chance to stand and sit close to other affluent, famous and well-connected individuals near the stage. While those artists and other celebrities are part of a filmed performance that will air to millions, the tax-paying, common citizens who want nothing more than a night out to watch their favorite artists perform while remembering those who fought and died for their precious rights will not even have the opportunity to watch it in person.

Memorial Day honors the valiant soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the liberties we enjoy today. The rights to speak our minds, criticize the government and live the lives we choose. Despite this, the families of troops who sacrificed their lives for these rights, due to restrictions, have invariably been excluded from this celebration. As it turns out, these celebrations of sacrifice are mere fronts for the elites to pat themselves on the back and have their faces plastered on the TVs of millions. What was their reasoning for not inviting the public? A fear of a COVID-19 superspreader?

I was able to wander among the crowd outside the barricades, and I interacted with both them and the police officers who were “protecting” the people inside. Indignation, dismay and shame were prevalent among both the citizens and the Capitol Hill police. Ordinary people showed up expecting to spend a night among the stars, listening to pleasant music and celebrating the ones who sacrificed their lives for our nation. Yet each and every one was presented with barricades and police officers preventing their ability to view an event taking place on taxpayer-funded grounds. One officer said, “They should have canceled this,” while another stated, “They’re paying us nearly $1,000 per day plus overtime to protect 500 people.” Indeed, they could not even defend their presence there.

Who makes these judgments? Did a boardroom full of seemingly knowledgeable people unanimously — or by majority vote — decide that it would be a good idea to ignore the substantiated science that states COVID-19 transmission outside is almost impossible, and prevent all but 500 people from witnessing the event live? Did they really believe that this was a suitable action at a celebration for soldiers who fought and died for our nation? Did they not foresee that the relatives of those non-selected veterans would be barred from attending a performance commemorating their sons’ or daughters’ deaths?

I remember celebrities, high-ranking politicians and other major actors in the economic and political environment marching with thousands of anti-police brutality demonstrators for months. I recall individuals with advanced scientific and health degrees defending these demonstrations on the grounds that police violence posed a greater danger to the public’s health than COVID-19. (Studies show approximately 30,000 individuals have been killed by U.S. police, barring justification, since 1980, while over 1 million have been killed by COVID-19 in the U.S. since 2020.) I remember that in the aftermath of these rallies, COVID-19 cases skyrocketed without any condemnation from the media or politicians for potentially causing thousands of more fatalities.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but your perspective has no value when it contradicts your other opinions so plainly. I would argue that allowing the public to memorialize troops who fought and died for us is more advantageous to our general health than the implications of COVID-19 spreading at an outdoor event. Now, however, the public, who has been barred from viewing the event, is having hundreds of thousands of dollars drained from their pockets and poured into the wallets of the police who do not even know why they are protecting the elites.

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