RALEIGH — Protesters showed up again for the fifth week in a row to protest North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s failure to reopen the state for business and his “phase one” extension of the statewide stay-at-home order.
With overlapping car horns in the background signaling the start of the fifth ReOpen NC protest, the movement’s co-founder Ashley Smith told North State Journal that Gov. Cooper’s “phase one” is not good enough.
“We want our state reopened. We want our liberty restored in full,” said Smith. “Our citizens are not satisfied. Phase one is not good enough.”
She and other protesters marched around the governor’s executive mansion before taking up a position at the front gate on E. Lane Street.
“We’re here to march on the governor’s mansion to tell Roy Cooper the power belongs to the people of this state, not to him,” Smith said. “And we will not go quietly until our liberty is restored and we are free.”
Matthew “Jax” Meyers, the owner of the Apex Tattoo parlor arrested for trying to open up his shop, took a different approach during the protest. While the protesters marched, Meyers stood alone in front of the main gate of the executive mansion, holding a one-sided conversation with the governor via a bullhorn.
Meyers yelled through the bullhorn that Cooper had “taken everything” from people over the last few weeks, including the life of a friend of Meyer’s named David Auchmoody. He committed suicide on May 9.
Auchmoody, a veteran firefighter and an EMT, suffered from depression. Meyers said that depression was exacerbated by stay-at-home restrictions and lack of work.
“He has a 92-year-old dad, who he was primary care of” Meyers shouted through the bullhorn. “You locked him in his home. You took away the only thing he had to fight his depression – and that was work.”
Meyers said he wasn’t going to stop until the governor came out and talked to him.
“I’m not going to let up and if I have to start coming every day, I will,” Meyers said. “But so help me God, you are going to answer for what you’ve done.”
The one-sided conversation continued for another half an hour before the rest of the protest returned and took up a position in front of the mansion.
Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Mark Robinson spoke to the ReOpen NC protesters on Tuesday, marking the second appearance he has made at the protests since they began five weeks ago.
Robinson told NSJ that he was there this time around because of some of the things he was seeing in the news, on social media and was hearing from the mouths of some elected officials. He said he was there to “correct that narrative.”
“These folks are not our leaders, they are not our masters, they are not kings. They are not sitting up there on a throne throwing out edicts,” Robinson said. “They are supposed to be servants to the people. They are supposed to understand that the people come first.”
“All of these people who come out here week after week and all the people across the state that have expressed concern about not being able to feed their families and not being able to work… this governor needs to listen to that,” said Robinson. “He’s not just a servant to Democrats, he’s a servant to the people of North Carolina.”
Robinson said Cooper needs to be held accountable and to “stop acting like a king.”
When asked about the lawsuit expected to be filed against Cooper for the restrictions placed on churches in his “Phase one” order, Robinson said that this was something that bothered him the most.
“If there is any institution that should not have been shut down, it should have been our churches,” said Robinson. “Prayer is an essential part of our liberty and it always has been.”
“To put their foot on the necks of houses of worship is egregious and it needs to stop,” Robinson said. He later adding that the fact Cooper keeps pushing back the timeline to reopen and putting houses of worship last is a “direct indication” of how the governor feels about churches.
While the protests went on outside the executive mansion, Cooper delivered another COVID-19 update briefing at which he faced questions about the restrictions on churches
Cooper also was asked about whether or not he would be meeting with the Council of State after the Republican majority members sent him a letter questioning when he would meet with them about his reopening strategy.
In response, Cooper said, “Pandemics cannot be partisan,” and that “We’re going to rely on the science and the facts to tell us when we need to reopen.”
Lieutenant governor Dan Forest reacted to Cooper’s response by tweeting, “Translation: Do as I say. Ask no questions. Remain silent.”
Cooper also said there would be no more restrictions eased and no reopening would happen any earlier than the potential end date of “Phase One,” which is May 22.
“I don’t think it can happen any earlier, because we need that whole period of time to know how we’re doing,” said Cooper. “We have to make sure that people continue staying at home as much as possible.”
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) responded in a statement yesterday, with a series of questions about the governor’s strategy.
“Governor Cooper should explain what his administration’s overarching strategy is. Is his strategic endgame to prevent much of the population from ever becoming infected? Does he believe that is possible?” said Berger. “Or is his strategic endgame to manage the virus as it naturally spreads through the population — to protect the highest-risk groups while seeking herd immunity through the young and healthy first?”
“We need a view into the administration’s thinking,” Berger said. “What goal is driving his policy decisions? What does he think is achievable?”
The data presented by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t seem to support the Cooper administration’s slow reopening strategy. Today, the state has a total of 210,457 tests performed, with 7.5% or 15,816 confirmed to be positive cases.
Like other states, the vast majority of deaths in North Carolina are focused in nursing home settings.
As of today, the state has had 597 deaths and 521 hospitalizations. At least 371 deaths were found in congregate living settings, such as nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and correctional institutions. Ages 50 and above represent 97% of all deaths in North Carolina, with 85% occurring in those older than 65.
Following up on his previous day’s questions, Berger is now calling on the governor to allow hair salons and barber shops to open.
“It’s time to follow the lead of the majority of states in our region and the country,” said Berger. “Hair salon owners and employees can’t work and many of them still can’t get unemployment assistance from the Cooper Administration. Gov. Cooper needs to provide counties with the flexibility to reopen hair salons and barber shops if they choose.”
Berger went on to say that the “majority of states in our region and the country have reviewed the science, facts, and data and reached a different conclusion than Gov. Cooper’s.”
“Gov. Cooper can’t have it both ways,” said Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick). “He can’t prohibit people from working, and then fail to provide the unemployment assistance that people are due.”