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Protesters Will Rally Against North Carolina's Stay-At-Home Order Tuesday


The group Reopen NC is planning a second protest in Raleigh this Tuesday urging Gov. Roy Cooper to lift stay-at-home restrictions no later than May 1. The protest comes amid mounting pressure from some lawmakers and others to reopen the economy even as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to grow by the day.

The protest will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday, when protesters will drive through the streets of Raleigh in a caravan and honk their horns to show support for reopening the economy and restoring personal liberties, organizers say. It will model the group's first protest held on April 14, when one person was arrested by state capitol police.

"There's been an overreach of power," said Reopen NC organizer and stay-at-home mom Ashley Smith. "What we're seeing right now is that personal liberty is being trampled on under the guise of keeping people safe."

She also said many small business have felt stung by the statewide stay-at-home order, which has allowed many larger retailers to stay open while smaller, nonessential businesses have had to shut down.

"Why are we not able to put those same practices in place in mom-and-pop businesses and let everybody get back to work?" she said. "It almost feels like an attack on small businesses, and I think that's a big problem for a lot of people among our movement."

Among those planning to attend Tuesday's protest is Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop of Charlotte. In a statement released last week, Bishop praised the protesters for rallying against "overreaching shutdown orders that limit our freedom." He also criticized the Raleigh Police Department for a since-deleted tweet that read, "Protesting is a non-essential activity."

As written, Cooper's stay-at-home order would expire on April 29, although he could chose to extend it. Cooper has said he needs to see progress in three key areas before he considers reopening the state.

First, he wants to see a substantial increase in coronavirus testing. Second, he wants better tracing of who's had contact with infected people, and third, he wants to see a decline in new coronavirus infections.

That tracks closely with guidance from the White House, which has said states shouldn't reopen until they've had a "downward trajectory" of COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period and hospitals are able to treat all patients without crisis care and implement a robust testing program for at-risk health care workers.

So far, testing has remained limited in North Carolina and the number of infections has grown each day this month, ranging from several dozen to more than 400 in one day. As of Sunday, the state had 6,493 confirmed coronavirus cases and 172 deaths tied to the disease.

Health officials have said more testing and tracing of those who've had contact with someone who's tested positive are crucial before restrictions can be eased, and they warn that reopening too quickly could lead to a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

In South Carolina, protesters have planned a similar demonstration at the state capitol on Friday. They plan to drive through the streets of downtown Columbia calling on Gov. Henry McMaster to reopen nonessential businesses.

However, McMaster's chief of staff told the Post and Courier of Charleston that McMaster planned to issue an executive order reopening some nonessential business prior to the protest. The chief of staff said McMaster would issue the order on Monday, allowing some businesses and public beaches to reopen on Tuesday.

Copyright 2021 WFAE. To see more, visit WFAE.

WFAE's Nick de la Canal can be heard on public radio airwaves across the Charlotte region, bringing listeners the latest in local and regional news updates. He's been a part of the WFAE newsroom since 2013, when he began as an intern. His reporting helped the station earn an Edward R. Murrow award for breaking news coverage following the Keith Scott shooting and protests in September 2016. More recently, he's been reporting on food, culture, transportation, immigration, and even the paranormal on the FAQ City podcast. He grew up in Charlotte, graduated from Myers Park High, and received his degree in journalism from Emerson College in Boston. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
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