Weekend protest planned in Annapolis against coronavirus closures

A group that says it is fed up with the ongoing closure of businesses and schools across Maryland is organizing a protest this weekend to call on Gov. Larry Hogan to start lifting restrictions put in place in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

In an online petition, the group ReOpen Maryland said it wants Hogan to immediately reopen business, educational and religious institutions.

“Research has demonstrated that non-economically disruptive social distancing measures can be sufficient to control the spread of COVID-19,” the group said. “We call upon Governor Hogan to hear his constituents and immediately begin the responsible reopening of our state.”

The group, which describes itself as, “a group of Maryland citizens concerned about the impact of mass shutdowns and school closures,” has scheduled the protest for noon Saturday in Annapolis.

People who show up are encouraged to remain in their vehicles, as Hogan has banned gatherings of more than 10 people.

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“We will drive into downtown Annapolis in peaceful protest to DEMAND the reopening of our state,” the group said on Twitter, using the hashtag “#OperationGridlock.”

Organizer Evie Harris told WTOP that she expects 2,000 or more vehicles to be involved in the protest.

“We think Americans and Marylanders are capable of moderating and modulating ourselves without government mandates,” said Harris.

Harris said she and others involved with ReOpen Maryland believe that the economic damage caused by the shutdowns is worse than the coronavirus itself.

“Families are experiencing some really tough economic depression.” she said. “They have gone literally from vibrant strong families to being economically depressed in about 30 days.”

Hogan said Thursday that now would be “the worst possible time” to reopen.

“We’re just really still heading up that curve,” Hogan said on NBC’s “TODAY” show. “We’re about a couple of weeks behind some of the hot spots.”

About 50 people gathered in Richmond, Virginia, Thursday to protest that state’s closure of schools and nonessential businesses.

Other similar protests have happened recently across the country in Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The signs of frustration come as President Donald Trump has pushed for easing stay-at-home orders and tried to look ahead to restarting the economy. He unveiled a framework for governors to follow, but acknowledged the governors will have the final say on when their states are ready.

Health experts have warned that lifting restrictions too quickly could result in a surge of new cases of the coronavirus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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