The coronavirus doesn’t care about politics, right wing or left wing.

From a strictly medical perspective, getting large groups of people together during a pandemic is one of the worst things one can do.

This will be taken by some as an attack on the Black Lives Matter-aligned demonstrators, but it is not. It’s possible to be against racism and still think large group protests are a really bad idea right now. The virus doesn’t care what I, you, or anybody else thinks. It spreads indiscriminately, and large groups of people should not be massing in a pandemic. There is historical precedent for this argument. In the 1918 flu pandemic there was a mass gathering for a parade in Philadelphia (literally known as “the deadliest parade in American history.”) Much more death followed compared to other cities. 

The reason for gathering is immaterial. It can be the GOP national convention or a Black Lives Matter demonstration. One might think, for example, that a bunch of people gathering for a Spring Break fling in Florida is irresponsible and of dubious benefit given the seriousness of COVID-19 and the potential to spread the virus. One might also think that the death of George Floyd at the hands of racist police officers demands justice and provides a reasonable rationale to gather and people the streets in protest against such abuses. Again, in either case, the virus doesn’t care.

Given the emerging data about the spread of the virus in the United States COVID-19 appears to be disproportionately impacting minority communities. There is a very real chance that the protests will end up killing far more minorities in 2020 than bad policing will. I know that’s a statement that is going to go over like a lead balloon, but it happens to be the reality. During an outbreak, risking exposure to the coronavirus imperils others and especially the most vulnerable. That these might be some of the same people demonstrators are trying to advocate for is a sad irony. 

It should be noted as well that the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter movement during an election year is not an accident. It’s not like there weren’t police-minority incidents from the last three years that could have spark this level of protests. As I’ve said before, like in 2016 this is part of a Russian effort to interfere in US elections. Inflaming racial tensions and fomenting chaos are part and parcel of the Russian playbook in their cyberwar against America:

In the summer of 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a Washington audience that when it came to Russian cyberattacks on future elections, “the warning lights are blinking red,” adding that “the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.” He noted that other countries, including Iran, North Korea, and China, had planned attacks on the US too.

After the 2018 midterms, Coats and other top US intelligence officials said they’d seen no evidence that those elections had been hacked. But they did confirm that Russia had tried to influence them “by spreading false information about political processes and candidates, lying about their own interference activities, disseminating propaganda on social media, and through other tactics,” according to a statement released by the FBI.

The Boston Globe also reported at the time that the federal government had logged more than 160 instances of suspected interference since August 1, and that the number jumped to about 10 instances a day in the few weeks before the midterms.

And earlier this year, Coats told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia and the same other three nations would try to interfere in the next presidential race. “We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,” he said. “We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts.”

Based on the new documents, it seems like trying to foment massive racial violence in America could be viewed as a “new tactic” to be used before November 2020.

That BLM is being promoted by the Russian for their own nefarious purposes does not invalidate the movement or its ideals. But it does mean we need to be extraordinarily careful not to be manipulated by efforts of foreign powers who are trying, even now, to divide America. We’re divided enough without outside help.