Stephen Gruber-Miller, Des Moines Register
Published 10:43 a.m. ET April 23, 2020 | Updated 11:15 a.m. ET April 23, 2020
The 10th Amendment protects state powers and puts a hamper on presidential powers. Here’s how the fight for control is playing out today.
DES MOINES – A pro-gun Iowa family is helping to spur protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and New York over state-imposed restrictions designed to slow the coronavirus pandemic.
Using their state-specific Facebook group pages with a total of over 200,000 followers, Iowa’s Dorr family has helped organize the protests against coronavirus restrictions and business closures in those states.
Their protests have usually drawn hundreds of demonstrators, but the movement has drawn worldwide news coverage and support from key Republican groups.
Now, the group may be expanding protests to other states over state-imposed restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, the potentially fatal disease caused by the new coronavirus. Public health officials have urged people to stay at home to prevent further spread of the virus — a measure that has also had dire economic impacts on Americans.
Aaron Dorr, executive director of Iowa Gun Owners, and several of his brothers created Facebook groups to organize the protests in those states and elsewhere. The Dorr brothers — Chris, Ben, Aaron and Matthew — have made themselves known among conservatives for their profitable anti-establishment Facebook groups that are pro-gun and anti-abortion.
Their anti-quarantine pages were developed with the same private registrar, according to an NBC analysis, and the brothers are reportedly listed as administrators on those state-specific anti-quarantine pages.
The Dorrs’ Facebook groups have functioned as a digital hub that has elevated misinformation, such as alleging that health officials are intentionally inflating COVID-19 death tallies and comparing the new virus to the flu, ABC and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
However, their pages have gained an immediate following.
One of their pages, The Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine, was created a week ago and now has 105,000 followers. That Facebook group description reads: “It’s time to OPEN OUR STATE and STOP Gov Evers’ Excessive Quarantine! Politicians are on a power trip, controlling our lives, destroying our businesses, passing laws behind the cover of darkness and forcing us to hand over our freedoms and our livelihood!”
Ben Dorr and members of his Facebook page plan to hold a protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Friday in Madison, he told WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.
There have been more than 820,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, with about 45,000 deaths, as of Wednesday morning.
Aaron Dorr told the USA TODAY Network there have not been any protests in Iowa so far, but “we’ll see what comes of this.”
“A growing number of state lawmakers are reaching out, telling us how antsy the Republican caucuses are to end this excessive quarantine,” he said.
A website reopeniowa.com redirects to a page on the Iowa Gun Owners website urging people, following similar language on the other state pages, to “email Governor Reynolds and demand she REOPEN IOWA for business now!”
“This virus has claimed the lives of (0.002%) of the state’s population, while sending over 160,000 Iowans into horrific financial devastation. Our members asked for a vehicle with which to make their voices heard, and we are happy to give them that voice,” Dorr said in a text message, responding to a question about why he believes protesting coronavirus-related restrictions is important.
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Some Iowa Republicans have been critical of Dorr for years, arguing that his aggressive tactics alienate even those whose views align with his. Current House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, called Dorr “a charlatan” in 2015 during a fight over a gun rights bill, saying Dorr “does things in a fashion to create calamity and to help him to raise money.”
His brothers, Ben and Chris, run the groups Minnesota Gun Rights and Ohio Gun Owners.
“It’s always a pleasure to be accused of fundraising from politicians who have their hand out seeking donations 24/7,” Aaron Dorr wrote in the text to the USA TODAY Network on Tuesday. “We love fighting for our members, and they love supporting organizations that fight for them. We don’t apologize for anything!”
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Follow Stephen Gruber-Miller on Twitter: @sgrubermiller
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/04/23/coronavirus-iowa-family-behind-reopen-covid-19-protests/3010862001/
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