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'We demand our rights be restored in full right now' | Reopen NC rally held in Raleigh

Armed with signs and messages, supporters of the movement marched through the streets of downtown Raleigh.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Supporters of the Reopen NC movement rallied near the State Capitol for the second week in a row.

The group is pushing for the state to open the economy back up for business by May 1st at the latest.

Armed with signs and messages, supporters of the movement marched through the streets of downtown Raleigh.

"Our resounding message to Governor Cooper and all of our elected officials is clear: end the shutdown,” said Ashley Smith, one of the organizers of the group. “We demand our rights be restored in full right now."

Smith said at the rally the scientific data being released does not support a continued shutdown of the state.

“If we don't lift this soon enough, we're going to see an acceleration of unemployment and job loss like our nation has never seen before,” Smith said.

Congressman Dan Bishop offered his support of the group’s right to protest amid the stay-at-home order.

“The governor has this order in place, but he offers and he says it will extend indefinitely,” Bishop said at the rally. “He gives no indication of when it will end. He gives no indication of a plan with discreet and specific criteria by which it will end."

State Senator Vickie Sawyer, representing Iredell and Yadkin Counties, attended the rally and held up a sign saying, “I am listening.”

"As someone who is a small business owner myself, who have a lot of friends who are small business owners, this uninformed wait is torture,” Sawyer said. “We need to have an open conversation about how we're going to get back to work."

Sawyer said she would like to see state leaders announce steps to reopening the economy so business owners can start making decisions for the future.

She said business owners also need to know how they will be able to operate and what kinds of precautions need to be in place to safely open.

“Those are things I think conversations that really need to happen now so that we can focus our energy on reopening North Carolina and doing it in a safe and systematic way,” Sawyer said.

In a news conference Tuesday, Governor Cooper reiterated his plan of testing, tracing, and trends to safely put people back to work. Cooper said he is planning to release more specifics later this week about the benchmarks for these items to move the state forward.

"We are working to ease restrictions in a responsible way, in a staged way,” Cooper said Tuesday.

Gaston County officials released plans to gradually reopen its local economy once the state stay-at-home order is lifted and if the data supports it.

"We believe based off of that data we can slowly, gradually, incrementally, reopen Gaston County,” said Tracy Philbeck, chairman of the Gaston County Commission.

Philbeck said this does not mean that the county will be back to business as usual on April 29. 

He said it could mean customer capacity limits if hair salons and restaurants reopen, but there would still be an emphasis on social distancing and sanitation and hygiene.

"We can protect public health, while at the same time putting people to work,” Philbeck said. “It is not an either-or question."


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