Give me liberty, or give me death!” is a quotation attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech he made to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775. In his speech, Henry beseeches his countrymen to declare war against the British. It’s important to understand, he actually never saw action during the war –the odds he would have died for something he believed in was very low. However, this past week, many individuals have been protesting against various states’ shelter-in place or stay-home orders.

Many groups of protestors have rallied in at least six states last week to demand state governments lessen orders requiring the closure of nonessential businesses and schools in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus. On Monday afternoon, there is a protest scheduled at “High Noon,” on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capital in Harrisburg.   

Health officials are warning of the risks which protesters face if they do not follow social distancing guidelines at a planned event. The state officials are asking the protesters to maintain at least six feet apart or remain in their cars. Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, stated, “…that if the protesters stay in their cars, and drive around the capital, I wouldn’t expect any issues with that.”

Organizers say that participants are welcome to stay in their vehicles and drive around, and then, at high noon, honk their horns. They’re asking all participants to stay away from hospitals, so as not to impact healthcare services. Similar protests that took place in recent days in places like Michigan and Maryland also involved protesters driving.

There is a concern that such a protest, could lead to a “second wave” of the pandemic.  Many people have been sharing a meme about the “Spanish flu” on various social media platforms, claiming such gathering and protest will lead to a second wave of infections and killed more people because they ignored social distancing rules during the 1918 pandemic.

However, such a claim in not completely true. The second wave of the influenza outbreak started before the end of WWI and was largely fueled by sickened soldiers traveling home to hospitals.

But some places that disregarded social distancing rules saw more influenza cases. There are several historical examples of cities that ignored these rules, only to see an increase in influenza cases. Philadelphia, for instance, hosted a 200,000-person parade and about 10 days after they witness their first deadly case of the “Spanish flu” in September 1918. More information about the Philadelphia outbreak can be found here.

Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman and philosopher, had stated, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Will his words ring true as we continue to witness more gatherings and protest across our nation? If so, those demanding, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” may get both when this is all said and done.