A protest erupted in North Carolina’s state capital Raleigh this afternoon when citizens broke the Governor’s Executive Order to shelter-in-place, and demanded that North Carolina reopen. Using #ReopenNC, the protest was reported by Raleigh police, who noted on Twitter that the gathering is in Downtown Raleigh, and that they “are monitoring the situation.”
Police asked protesters to leave, but the gathering remained for at least two hours before the protesters were cleared. However, protesters had made their point, and one arrest was made by State Capitol Police.
ReopenNC had planned this protest near the Legislative Building in Raleigh despite the orders, making use of their constitutional right to free assembly. On their Facebook page, ReopenNC states:
“We are residents of North Carolina that stand for The Constitution and demand our officials Reopen NC no later than April 29, 2020. We are losing our small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy. The shutdown is not warranted, nor sustainable for our area. The vulnerable can be isolated or protected in other ways, without sacrificing our entire state economy. It's important to note, several other states have not enacted stay at home orders.”
It was on Monday, April 13, that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper instituted new restrictions on retail stores and nursing homes. All retail shops can only have 20 percent of their max capacity in the store at any given time, and have to make sure shoppers keep the 6 foot distance at checkout lines. Nursing homes are to close all common areas, residents are to be tested every day for COVID-19, and employees must use PPE at all times.
In his address, Cooper emphasized the importance of his executive orders for North Carolinians to stay-at-home to combat the coronavirus contagion. He noted that the spread, while accelerating, is at a “much slower pace." Cooper is insistent that his citizens continue to isolate themselves and their families, not attend work, and put off any non-essential travel or business, through April.
Critics, however, have voiced their concerns as to the resiliency of North Carolina’s economy amidst these pervasive shut downs across all industries and sectors, with few exceptions. Across the US, these stay-at-home order instituted at state executive levels are beginning to chafe. In North Carolina, the orders are in place through April 29. These include the forbidding of gatherings of more than 10 people, and the required maintenance of social distancing of at least six feet in public spaces.
ReopenNC voices a growing concern among Americans that their Constitutional rights are being trampled in the name of health and safety, and that while it is necessary to take precautions, the halting and destruction of statewide economies is not a tolerable side-effect of self-isolation and social distancing.
Americans who value their rights and freedoms, their businesses and their ability to work, are finding it difficult to remain indoors, helpless in the face of a shifting and uncertain timeline for when life can return to normal. This is evidenced by ReopenNC. It is not known if the economic activist who was arrested at the protest today will be released, as the state is considering the release of non-violent offenders in order to staunch the prison spread of coronavirus.