IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Facebook removes some events calling for protests of stay-at-home orders

The events, which were planned in California, Nebraska and New Jersey, violated protective measures imposed by governors, Facebook said.
Demonstrators gather in front of the Colorado State Capitol building to protest coronavirus stay-at-home orders during a "ReOpen Colorado" rally in Denver on Sunday, April 19, 2020.Jason Connolly / AFP - Getty Images

Facebook has removed posts promoting events in a handful of states planning protests against stay-at-home measures meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The events, which were planned in California, Nebraska and New Jersey, violated protective measures imposed by governors, Facebook said.

"Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "For this same reason, events that defy government's guidance on social distancing aren't allowed on Facebook."

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

The removals were first reported by The Washington Post. Many other protest events remain active on Facebook, with some slated for Monday.

Dozens of protests have taken place in various states in recent weeks. The small events have been marked by dozens or hundreds of protesters gathering in state capitals and in front of governors' mansions to wave U.S. flags and hoist signs that claim that the protective measures have infringed on their rights.

State governments have asked people not to attend the protests, as the groups have assembled without adhering to social distancing guidelines and could risk infecting more people and lengthening the state shutdown measures.

President Donald Trump has encouraged social distancing, but he has also offered support to the protests. Last week, he tweeted "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" as far-right gun groups led a protest in front of the governor's residence.

At a news conference Sunday, Trump defended the protesters.

"They've got cabin fever," he said.

As for whether the protesters — some of whom have been spotted carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, long guns and signs with violent messages — could be potentially dangerous, Trump said: "I've never seen so many American flags. These people love our country. They want to get back to work."

Facebook has been the main hub to coordinate and promote such events, bringing together anti-government and conspiracy-minded fringe activists, including militia groups, extreme religious fundamentalists and anti-vaccination proponents, with the common cause of ending state and federal efforts to restrict freedom of movement to halt the coronavirus' spread.

More than 100 state-specific Facebook groups, made up of more than 900,000 members, have been created in the last two weeks to protest the stay-at-home orders, according to an unpublished analysis by First Draft, a disinformation research organization. The pages have organized at least 49 different events.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts about the coronavirus outbreak

Protests were expected Monday in Arizona, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Hundreds of people were planning to attend, according to their event pages on Facebook.

Most of Monday's events are dubbed "Operation Gridlock," urging people to protest from their vehicles, although demonstrators ignored those orders in similar protests last week.

"High NOON drive around the Capitol- honk horns, paint cars or bring signs. SHOW UP," the event descriptions read. "Stop the erosion of civil liberty and protect the American dream!"