by Terry Rogers
On Friday, May 1st, hundreds gathered at a rally in Dover, DE outside of Legislative Hall asking Governor John Carney to allow businesses to reopen. A smaller group protested outside the Carvel Building in Wilmington, DE as well. Some protesters stood outside holding signs while others circled building in cars.
“This was a safe and responsible rally,” Lisa Marie McCulley said. “This is a rally to uphold the Constitution and because this lockdown is not sustainable for our businesses, those who suffer from mental illness and are isolated, those in our population who are currently being abused, those who suffer from other diseases and are not getting proper care, those who need surgeries, those suffering with addictions, those who have no income due to job loss, the homeless, the suicidal and those living in poverty and despair. We stand for all Delawareans.”
On Saturday, April 25, Governor John Carney issued a modification to the Emergency Order that required people to wear masks in public areas. However, many of those in attendance chose not to wear masks, several citing medical conditions that prevented them from doing so, including asthma and PTSD.
The group was organized by several small business owners who are struggling financially due to closures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Members of the group say they welcome restrictions that require people to remain six feet apart and limits on the number of people in their business but feel they should have the right to open. In addition to business owners, members of the group include healthcare providers and other essential employees.
Among those attending the rally was Senator Dave Wilson who wore a red, white and blue face mask.
“We’ve got to get our state back up and moving again,” Senator Wilson said. “I am concerned about all small businesses, especially as a small businessman. It’s a sad time. I wouldn’t want to be in the governor’s position, but I’m saying you can’t lock everything down. The government cannot be the paycheck for everybody every Friday night.”
Thomas Fowler wants people to understand that those who attending the rallies understand who is at risk and what the risk is.
“We are not monsters who want to kill granny,” Fowler said. “Three quarters of the country is working, how is having mom and pop businesses or restaurants opening up going to make the numbers skyrocket? Recent tests are showing the virus is everywhere and has already spread. Declare everything open and you decide if you want to participate or not, all while continuing to protect the vulnerable as best we can. The market force will dictate if enough people feel confident to patronize these businesses or go to the beach. Nobody is saying you have to open up your business or that you can’t continue to stay in your home. It is called choice.”
There did not appear to be any opposing protesters at the Reopen Delaware rallies. At his press conference on Friday, May 1, Governor Carney acknowledged the protesters.
“Obviously, they have free speech rights so I want to be respectful of that,” Governor Carney said. “They don’t have the right to put other people at risk, which is what happens when they are gathering kind of illegally. But, I don’t want to go looking for or picking fights. I just don’t think that is productive. I want people to work together. I would rather that they would gather and make their case with me in a kind reasonable way. I hear them, they have every right to do what they’re doing, they do not have a right to do it in the way that they’re doing it, but it is counterproductive to pick fights.”
On Thursday, April 30, the House Republican Caucus sent a letter to Governor Carney requesting that the state begin the process of opening business. The letter, signed by 15 members of the Delaware House of Representatives, explained that the legislators were supportive of the State of Emergency and following modifications given the projections of health experts related to COVID-19.
“Even when we had differing opinions regarding the state’s response, our members have worked with your administration behind the scenes to present a united front during one of our state’s most difficult periods,” the letter read. “Today is the 49th day Delawareans are living under the restrictions imposed by your State of Emergency declaration. With the lives and livelihoods of our citizens under threat, we can no longer remain silent.”
In his press conference, Governor Carney also addressed the letter from House Republicans, explaining that he and Representative Danny Short had a long telephone discussion where the governor was able to address some of the concerns expressed in the letter.
Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine say that more rallies may be planned if the state does not soon move into Phase I of the recovery plan outlined by the governor.