Conservatives angry about the economic damage caused by Gov. Doug Ducey’s COVID-19 executive order closing nonessential businesses and ordering Arizonans to stay home are planning an April 20 rally across the street from the Capitol to call on the governor to “re-open” Arizona.
Who is behind the rally is unknown, and it is unclear if it will be conducted in a manner that complies with Ducey’s executive order, which allows for constitutionally protected activities – such as a protest – provided attendees practice social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The “Patriot’s Day Rally” will take place at “high noon” at Wesley Bolin Plaza and has been shared widely in conservative social media circles along with the hashtag #ReOpenAz.
“This is a gathering of patriots, not an organized event by any group or individual. We will each be responsible for ourselves and practice physical distancing to the extent feasible,” Michelle Dillard, a member of the group Purple for Parents, said on Twitter when questioned how the rally would abide by social distancing set out by Ducey’s executive order.
The Arizona Department of Administration, which oversees Wesley Bolin Plaza, has not received any permit requests for the area for April 20, ADOA spokeswoman Megan Rose told Arizona Mirror.
Dillard’s tweet with the flyer has been shared widely along with the with the hashtags “#SCAMdemic2020” and “#CoronaFacism.”
“Join fellow patriots who support the constitution, liberty, & re-opening the Arizona economy,” the flyer reads.
“Practicing physical distancing is saving lives in our community and around the world,” Annie DeGraw, spokeswoman for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, said in a statement to the Mirror. “We ask that residents continue to adhere to the advice of medical experts to help protect public health.”
The flyer also has been gaining traction on social media, with some conservative candidates for elected office circulating it.
— Scott Weinberg (@KyreneDad) April 12, 2020
Scott Weinberg, a candidate for the Kyrene School District governing board, has been tweeting out the flyer and calling the Phoenix Police Department “brown shirts”, a reference to the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party, for implementing closures of Phoenix parks.
Weinberg has been widely advocating for the rally online, stating that if he gets sick at the rally, he has health insurance. In one tweet, he called a critic of the rally online “dumb and unattractive.”
A petition has also been circulating with a link to a website, reopenarizona.com. The website was registered April 9, and although the website was registered anonymously, it redirects to an email signup page paid for by U.S. Senate candidate Daniel McCarthy. The email signup page is titled “Declaration to Stop the Shutdown” and it accuses “detached mayors, bureaucrats and politicians” of convincing Ducey to issue his stay-at-home order “for their own political and personal gain.”
McCarthy said his campaign has nothing to do with the rally, and refused to comment further. He ended the interview after accusing the Mirror of attempting to write a hit piece.
Far-right groups have been latching onto the rally and the movement, with people like Restricted Republic’s Lisa Haven tweeting out to her over 11,000 followers that she plans to attend.
Restricted Republic has pushed conspiracy theories, and has published claims on its subscriber-based website that people like Bill Gates have a financial interest in the COVID-19 pandemic and that the virus is a ruse for establishing a one world government.
Similar rallies have been occuring in other states.
In Michigan, more than 3,000 people showed up at a protest dubbed “Operation Gridlock.” Most attendees stayed in their cars, though several hundred took to the streets during the protest.
Dillard shared a link to a similar protest that aims to take place in Texas over the weekend, as well.
Seven out of 10 Americans said they would not feel comfortable going to a sporting event until a vaccine is created for COVID-19, and even with 78 vaccine projects in the works, it could still be up to a year or more before a vaccine is ready for consumers.
Economists say this means that even if the country was “opened up” and restrictions were lifted, many Americans would still be weary and economic progress will be slow.
“You can’t just turn the light switch on and have everyone go back to work, as much as businesses would love to do that,” Suzanne Clark, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The New York Times. “It’s going to be the opposite of a green light. It’s going to go from red to yellow and then green.”
Ducey has also signaled that, although he is eager to re-open Arizona’s economy, but won’t do so until it is absolutely safe.
“At the appropriate time, when it’s safe, we will begin to re-energize the economy,” Ducey said April 14.“It’s not like turning off a light switch and turning on a light switch.”
President Donald Trump unveiled new guidelines Thursday that he was leaving the decision up to state governors when to re-open their states, and said that May 1 was his administration’s target date to “re-open” the country.