RALEIGH — Protesters with Reopen NC descended on Raleigh for the third week in a row in protest of Governor Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order, the latest extension of that order and demanding businesses be allowed to open.
Last week’s protest was attended by multiple elected officials, including Republican Congressman Dan Bishop, who represents the ninth district. The message this week was the same, however, to open the state up for business by May 1.
A sea of signs and protesters filled Jones street in front of the General Assembly which came back into session today.
A large number of signs contained pleas from small business owners to reopen and asking the governor to recognize that all both they and their businesses are “essential.”
A set of counter-protesters showed up as well, some wearing medical scrubs and lab coats. The counter-protesters stood across the street from the Reopen NC protesters but there were at times a few back and forth yelling matches between the two.
A “big announcement” that was supposed to be given during the protest was pushed back a day, according to a Reopen NC spokesperson who spoke with North State Journal. The content of the announcement and name of the elected official making it was being withheld until April 29.
Reopen NC protesters eventually headed to the General Assembly and flooded the patio area with the crowd covering most of the area on nearby Jones Street. While there, a speech was made by Co-leader Ashley Smith who said that the governor’s order was “unconstitutional” and she vowed not to follow it.
Chants broke out occasionally, such as “USA!” Other chants followed such as “Open Up NC” and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho Roy Cooper has got to go.”
After spending around thirty minutes or more chanting and giving speeches on the steps of the legislature, the protesters headed between the N.C. Museums of History and Natural Sciences towards the N.C. Capitol building, which houses the office of the governor.
Once at the Capitol building, the long stream of protesters marched around the building, waving signs and chanting “remember in November.”
Near the end of the protest, the crowd headed towards the executive mansion. It was at that location that at least three people, one of which was identified as Ashley Smith, were arrested for stepping on the sidewalk outside the mansion gates. Allegedly, law enforcement had warned protesters they were not allowed to use the sidewalk directly in front of the governor’s residence.
Charges pending for Smith state she was arrested for violating the governor’s “executive order 117.” Two other people arrested on the same charge are Lisa Marks Todd, age 55, and Wendy Kath Macasieb, age 53. All three also were charged with “resisting an officer.”
Jonathan Dane Warren II, age 35, was also arrested, in addition to being charged with violating an executive order and resisting arrest, he was also charged with “injury to real property” which involved damage caused by Warren to the northeast gate of the executive mansion.
In a press statement issued upon Smith’s release, the co-leader confirmed that the officer’s arresting her had injured her wrist. She also said she had been denied water and her eyeglasses were taken away. Smith roundly criticized the arrests and closed with a notice that protests will continue.
“Our protests will continue. Our civil disobedience will accelerate,” said Smith in the release. “Our faith in the Police has diminished. We will open North Carolina!”
There had been some controversy and misreporting the day before regarding the COVID-19 testing status of one of Reopen NC’s members, Audrey Whitlock.
Contrary to some reports, a spokesperson with Reopen NC tells North State Journal that Whitlock is not one of the leaders Reopen NC but is instead an “early supporter” and one of several administrators of the group’s Facebook page.
“A reporter called her personal phone and asked her questions. She said, “no comment” to all of the questions because Ashley is our media contact,” wrote Kristin Elizabeth, an administrator for the group’s Facebook page.
North State Journal reached out to the group to clarify and was told that was told she tested positive on April 13, was asymptomatic and that her doctor instructed her to self-quarantine, which she did. That quarantine ended April 26. Both the group and Whitlock said that at no time had Whitlock attended a protest.
Whitlock vocally defended herself on the group’s page, reiterating the correct information about her status and that she will “not be used by the media.”
“I will continue to voice my opinion in dissent of this lock down and fight for small businesses and families to be able to make their own decisions,” wrote Whitlock. “I will not be used by the media as an attempt to hijack our narrative. I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO A REOPENNC RALLY and I will not be attending the rally this week.”