SALEM, ORE. — On Saturday, May 2, thousands of protesters showed up at the Capitol to give voice to their growing frustration over Governor Kate Brown (D-Portland) and her increasingly vague timeline for allowing business to resume in the state. Non-essential businesses have been shut down for almost two months and schools were closed for the year to mitigate the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Local media estimated hundreds of people in the crowd, but an accurate count probably approaches 2,000. Not bad given that there was a driving rainstorm and not much promotion of the event, compared to previous rallies.
Protesters expressed their frustration with the state’s stay-at-home orders which created what they called arbitrary rules over which businesses were deemed essential and could stay open. Additionally, many read the state statutes to say that Brown has a maximum of thirty days for any emergency declaration and that the legislature should convene to debate any extensions. Brown made the initial emergency declaration on March 8. Protesters fear that this extended shutdown will lead to economic ruin for too many Oregonians, and question whether Brown has the power to supersede the U.S. and Oregon Constitutions for such a long period.
Brown held a press conference the day before the rally, Friday, May 1. She discussed the parameters for reopening the state. Requirements to be met before anything can be reopened include hiring 600 new state employees to conduct contact-tracing research, the ability to conduct widespread testing, sufficient PPE supply, and others. She will split the state into regions, combining counties into geographical districts, to allow some rural counties with few cases to open sooner.
What she left out of that press conference, and what kept protesters even more on edge the following day, was that she’s extended the emergency declaration to July 6.
Protesters expressed themselves firmly, with hundreds of cars circling the building and honking their horns. They remained peaceful, and one police officer said he likes protests like this that don’t descend into violence. Two folks open-carrying long rifles were spotted, and perhaps half a dozen antifa-aligned counter-protesters, but most attendees were families worried about putting food on the table and losing constitutionally-protected liberties.
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