RALEIGH — Protesters with ReOpen NC gathered in Raleigh near the General Assembly and continued their demand that Governor Roy Cooper opens the state up for business.
ReOpen NC’s co-founder Ashley Smith spoke to media prior to the beginning of the protest.
Smith said that when they began this movement, they had high hopes of changing the minds of the governor and elected officials, but that those officials in North Carolina haven’t listened to the people. She pointed out other states had followed North Carolina’s ReOpen movement and their governors had listened and were lifting restrictions.
“Week after week, Gov. Cooper continues to show just how out of touch and callous he really is,” said Smith.
Smith went on to mention that the state now had over one million people who have filed for unemployment.
“For those of us who have gone seven weeks without a paycheck, our debts get higher and higher and the chances of getting out of this hole get slimmer and slimmer,” Smith said, adding that the people’s patience is “running thin.”
Smith said that speakers would be addressing the group and that they would not be marching through the streets of downtown this time. Near the end of the protest, Smith announced that they were changing the strategy for the group and would be rolling out fundraising campaigns in the near future. She said has become apparent they will need to fundraise in order to mount legal fights and expand the movement.
When asked what her issue was with the “science behind testing numbers,” Smith responded that the data keeps changing from day to day, as well as from source to source. Smith also said that “One million people are now unemployed, why are we changing the subject away from that?”
When asked by North State Journal if Smith saw the governor’s phase one as an extension of the stay-at-home order, she responded with “absolutely.”
“I don’t really see much difference between phase one and what we are in now,” Smith said.
Across the street from the press conference, around ten individuals stood on the steps of the legislature holding “stay home” signs. A person identifying themselves as a press point of contact for the counterprotesters named “Clara” said that only about half of them actually worked in healthcare.
An individual nearby was dressed like the Grim Reaper, wearing black from head to toe and carrying a scythe made from cardboard.
Members of ReOpen NC stayed in the parking lot area near the corner of Fayetteville and Jones streets.
Speakers included Gaston County Commission chairman Tracy Philbeck, Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort); Jax Meyers, owner of Apex Tattoo Factory; and Mary Macasieb, a registered nurse who was arrested at the prior week’s protest.
Commissioner Philbeck spoke first and reminded the crowd that the state’s shut down was initiated over one thing – hospital capacity.
“Not one hospital in the state of North Carolina has experienced one issue with hospital capacity. Not one,” said Philbeck.
Philbeck went on to say that the governor had gone from testing to tracing to now “we just want to make people feel safe.” He added that he thinks “it’s time we sent a message to Roy Cooper” and the governor should “let our people go.”
Jax Meyers also spoke. The tattoo parlor made national headlines last week as he was filmed being handcuffed by police within ten minutes of trying to reopen his business last week.
“Even businesses considered essential are suffering,” Meyers said while criticizing Cooper for keeping businesses like his closed.
“We don’t ask for our rights back, we take them,” Kidwell said in his remarks, adding later that Cooper “does not have the authority to close God’s church.”
“I sat in a pew in a church in Belhaven, North Carolina, and I thumbed my nose at the governor from inside the church, listening to the word of God and exercising the precept of my faith,” said Kidwell.
Kidwell said that a lawsuit was being prepared by “three attorneys” who were representing “over 400 churches.” He said that Cooper may not want to listen to the people, but that “he will listen to the courts.”
At some point following his remarks, Kidwell was detained by police and searched after police were allegedly told that the legislator was carrying a gun. Kidwell was responsible for helping to write a letter in support of what have become known as Second Amendment sanctuaries during the controversy over gun rights in neighboring Virginia. The letter was signed by 50 members of the N.C. House.
ReOpen NC’s group on Facebook has continued to grow and is now over 74,000 members. It is unclear at this time if a fifth protest will be held next week.