A line of more than 150 honking vehicles circled Legislative Mall today prior to a rally that drew hundreds of flag-waving protesters to Dover.
Attendees were drawn to the state capitol – while others marched on the Carvel building in Wilmington – to demand the reopening of Delaware’s economy, which has been on lockdown since Governor John Carney’s State of Emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Theresa, a 30-year-old birthing instructor, circled Legislative Hall in a car with three hand-painted painted signs which read, “Moms against house arrest,” “Open DE Now” and “Jobs are Essential.”
She came out today because she wants to speak up and get back work.
“I think people are scared to say what they really think and to question what’s going on with the government,” said Theresa, who is a birthing instructor who has not worked since the stay-at-home order was issued. “There are people who have COVID, and we need to be respectful of that. But that shouldn’t mean we can’t earn an income because of that,” she said.
Sussex County caterer and restaurant owner Marylin Smith Hastings, along with her cousin Irene O’Day found a spot far from the crowds on the lawn at Legislative Hall where they could wave their homemade sign which read, “Wake Up America! Give me liberty or give me death – Patrick Henry.”
Not shy to take part, Hastings, who owns Smith Café in Seaford, hollered chants along with the crowds and told us that her reasons for demonstrating today were twofold.
“We’ve been in business since 1986, if that tells you anything. Birthday parties, weddings, oodles and oodles of weddings have canceled. I mean, nobody’s getting married or anything. No business at all. But I’m here, mostly for the future of my grandchildren. I want them to know freedom continually,” said Hastings
Irene O’Day said, “Our government has overreached — they used the virus to overreach.”
The group organizing the Dover protest today was Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine. Inspired by the same effort in Michigan, Lisa McCulley launched the Facebook group two weeks ago for Delawareans. The group now has 6,700 members.
Four men — all part of a group not associated with Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine — brandished guns at the rally. And about half of the protesters were not wearing masks.
In addressing the group today McCulley said, “We have everything to lose by speaking out. But we’re not willing to lose our freedom. So welcome to the people’s rally to reopen Delaware.
“It’s 50 days that we’ve been living under these restrictions — 50 days ago today, he [Governor Carney] declared a state of emergency. And I think we have all been really patient. Don’t you?”
McCulley launched the Facebook group with Adiris Cordero-Torres, born in Puerto Rico said, “I came to the United States when I was 24 years old.” Now 49, Cordero-Torre also addressed the crowd today.
Didi, as she calls herself, says she has lived a varied life. She was briefly homeless while living in New York but now owns a home and a small business in Delaware and wants to get back to work.
“I am very heartbroken to know that there are so many families out there hurting right now. Businesses that are getting ready to close. Jobs that will not come back, people that can lose their homes, and that’s deep, you guys, that’s deep,” said Cordero-Torres.
State Senator David Lawson and Dover city councilman David Anderson also addressed the crowd of protesters.
In a briefing with reporters later this afternoon, Governor Carney had this to say about the two protests, “This is a great country. Everybody has the right to express their opinion, and folks are doing that. I guess I would have hoped that the protesters were more here to express their appreciation for what we’re doing and their support for what we’re doing. But obviously we hear and understand their opposition and their eagerness to get back to work,” said Carney.
He later continued, “We understand as we saw the protests today, in Dover and here in Wilmington, the sense of urgency that everybody has and getting back to the new normal. It’s not going to be normal like we used to know it as long as the virus exists.”