On Tuesday morning, the Raleigh Police Department shut down approximately 100 protesters with the libertarian group #ReOpenNC. The majority of protesters were demonstrating from their cars, abiding by North Carolina’s social distancing guidelines.
The group gathered to protest Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order shutting down the state until further notice. While many governors have given constituents an end date to shelter-in-place orders, Cooper signed North Carolina’s order until he decides to rescind it.
“This Executive Order is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until rescinded,” it reads.
The #ReOpenNC protesters claim Cooper’s shelter-in-place order is an unconstitutional overreach that will kill small businesses. The group has a following of approximately 30,000 members and is compromised of many small business owners.
Ashley Smith, the co-founder of #ReOpenNC, told The Federalist she couldn’t sit there and watch small businesses and personal liberties be taken away by a prolonged shelter-in-place order.
“Our rights and our liberties and our lives are just being destroyed right before our very eyes,” Smith said. “None of us are going to stand up and do anything about it? No.”
Smith described the communal aspect of #ReOpenNC and shared stories about friends who had weddings cancelled, mothers dying alone, and one individual who watched a life-long partner die through a small window in a hospital door.
“It feels so personal now,” the mother of four said.
Smith said the group’s co-founders called the Wake Forest Sheriff’s Department and the Raleigh Police Department to ask for permission to protest. She said the group was given permission and told they did not need a permit.
According to Jonah Kaplan at ABC News, the protesters were met by the Raleigh Police Department along with the Wake Forest Sheriff’s prison transport. The majority of protesters demonstrated from their cars to abide by social distancing guidelines. The group honked their horns in unison every 15 minutes.
NEW: At least one person now under arrest by @raleighpolice for refusing to leave #ReopenNC demonstration outside @ncleg. At its height, there were probably 100+ people at the tailgate-style rally. @ABC11_WTVD @ABC @ABCPolitics #coronavirusNC #StayAtHome #abc11 pic.twitter.com/so9ZIzzqpY
— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) April 14, 2020
The Raleigh Police Department warned protesters who exited their cars and eventually those inside their cars. Monica Ussery, 51, was arrested and charged with violating Cooper’s executive order for walking through the parking lot.
Smith described the police garb as “just short of riot gear.”
The police issued three warnings before cars and people started to disperse.
When group members questioned what part of the executive order they weren’t abiding by, the Raleigh police said on Twitter that “protesting is a non-essential activity.”
Protesting is a non-essential activity.
— Raleigh Police (@raleighpolice) April 14, 2020
“I think [this] is absolutely ridiculous and I think the North Carolina State Constitution says otherwise,” Smith said.
Smith said there has been emotional and political gaslighting towards her efforts to mitigate the quarantine. She explained to The Federalist that her efforts are not to hinder those who are immunocompromised, but to allow companies and individuals to make choices for themselves. Smith also noted the national correlation between suicide rates and unemployment.
“We don’t need a nanny state,” Smith said. “This is what I’ve heard from our collective voice of almost 30,000 members… What they’re saying over and over again is, look I’ve been immunocompromised for years and no one’s ever had to come along and force me to do these things. I know how to protect myself.”