On Monday, nurses in Phoenix faced off against protesters who were demanding that Gov. Doug Ducey reopen Arizona. A small group of nurses in scrubs and masks stood their ground as protesters accused them of being fake nurses and claimed that the COVID-19 outbreak was a hoax. The nurses did not speak or answer any questions. Instead, they simply stood there and listened to what the protesters had to say.
One of the nurses involved was Lauren Leander from the Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix. Leander stood with her arms crossed, face mask in place, looking ahead and standing her ground even when some protesters got within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s recommended distance of six feet to talk to her and her fellow nurses. (Related: People protesting stay-at-home orders across America.)
🇺🇸American hero–Nurse Lauren Leander–stares down protestors defying experts’ #StayHome orders.
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) April 23, 2020
Among those who got close was a man who calmly explained his frustrations and claimed that COVID-19 patients were taking priority over others who also needed medical care.
“I don’t think there’s one right answer to this, but there’s more than just one side,” he said. “We have overblown this so much that we’re denying care to some of those people who need care. My grandpa is one of those people.”
Several protesters, however, weren’t as polite and accused Leander and her fellow nurses of being actors and fake nurses paid by the government.
“A majority of the comments were that I was a paid actor from my hospital or the government to stand there and protest against these people, which was not [the case] at all. I was there on my day off,” Leander explained.
“It was eye-opening. It was very sobering and very sad at the same time,” she said. ”I think that the beauty of being able to silently protest and not engage with these people allowed us to see what they really thought.”
Another nurse who came to rally, Jasmine Bhatti, said she attended so that she could “be the face of reality.” She stated that the protesters called COVID-19 a hoax and was also accused of being a paid actor or even a veterinarian. Despite this, Bhatti says she’s prepared to help anyone who gets sick, even if it were one of the protesters.
“If they were to come into the hospital, we’re still going to treat them just as any other person who walks in,” Bhatti stated. “But gosh, it’s awful to know that this is the way they feel, and this is the way they think.”
Local news outlet Arizona’s Family has since verified that both Leander and Bhatti have active nursing licenses in the state that are in good standing.
Monday’s rally and counter-rally in Phoenix were just some of the many occurrences happening all over the country. As anti-lockdown protesters have started to stage demonstrations against city- and state-mandated lockdown orders, so too have healthcare workers who are coming out to defend those measures.
Dr. Erich Bruhn and his wife Kristen, a former nurse, stood in front of protesters in Richmond, Virginia Wednesday. Dressed in white lab coats and face masks, the Bruhns stood silently, choosing instead to wield placards. Dr. Bruhn’s sign said “You have no right to put us all at risk. Go home!” His wife’s, on the other hand, asked protesters to “Sign up here to die for the economy.”
In Vermont, nurses braved the snow to stand in front of protesters rallying in front of the Statehouse in Montpelier. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Missouri, a lone man stood in front of cars of drive-by protesters with a sign telling them that “No economy is worth more than a life.”
When interviewed by NBC29, Bruhn stated that he believed that there were even more people who disagreed with the protesters and with reopening the country, but that they were following social distancing rules and staying at home.
“The truth is far more people disagree with opening the country,” Bruhn said. ”But they’re not coming out to protest because they are at home doing the right thing.”