Groups plan 'Reopen Virginia' protest at Virginia capitol

Photo of a "Reopen NC" protest in Raleigh, N.C. on April 14 | Courtesy: ABC11
Photo of a "Reopen NC" protest in Raleigh, N.C. on April 14 | Courtesy: ABC11(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT
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A group of people upset with Virginia's Stay at Home order and business closures put into place to limit the spread of COVID-19 is planning to protest in Richmond on Thursday.

Groups known as ReOpen Virginia, End The Lockdown VA and Virginians Against Excessive Quarantine say they will have "thousands of concerned citizens" gathering at Virginia's Capitol Square on April 16 at 11:30 a.m.

A similar protest was held in North Carolina on Tuesday, but the turnout was more along the lines of dozens of people rather than thousands. Raleigh police ordered the crowds to disperse because they violated the state's executive orders.

If the planned protest happens in Richmond on Thursday, and groups of more than 10 gather in small enough spaces that they cannot have six feet of social distance between participants, they will be in violation of Virginia's Executive Order 53, which banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Gov. Northam

that the order was being extended until May 8.

Virginia State Police

that, while Northam's Stay at Home order is not being enforced by law enforcement, the ban on gatherings of more than 10 can be enforced by any local law enforcement agency, which can issue warning for an initial offense and a misdemeanor for repeated violations.

The organizers of the protest say the state government, which under Constitutional law has the defined authority to protect public health, is violating their rights.

“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny,” said Reopen Virginia in a press release. “Business owners are being forced to layoff employees while the unemployment system is failing those laid off as the economy free falls. This is a recipe for disaster with many in our society helpless. We cannot stand by and watch our neighbors suffer while the government considers prolonging these painful conditions. The economy should be reopened on 5/1 for healthy citizens continuing enhanced sanitation habits to prevent any virus from spreading. Those with compromised immune systems should not have to re-enter the economy or workforce if they do not feel comfortable.”

The groups say it's "not sustainable to continue this lockdown as the economic and societal consequences will be irreversible."

They cite statistics on how opioid deaths increase along with increases in unemployment and statistics on the increase in child abuse and domestic violence during the ongoing shutdowns.

The groups are calling for the protest to remain peaceful.