Activist leading push to reopen North Carolina vows to continue after arrest
A North Carolina activist who was arrested earlier this week has vowed to continue leading demonstrations calling for the state to lift restrictions intended to help contain the coronavirus.
Four people, including co-founder of ReOpen NC Ashley Smith who has since been released, were arrested Tuesday during a protest the group held in Raleigh, local station WCNC reported.
Smith called the arrests a “bold move” in a statement and claimed that the group worked peacefully with area authorities before her arrest, according to the outlet.
“Our protests will continue. Our civil disobedience will accelerate. Our faith in the police has diminished. We will open North Carolina,” Smith said.
The arrests occurred outside of the North Carolina executive mansion, where hundreds of protesters rallied against North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) stay-at-home order, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
Wendy Macasieb, Lisa Todd and Smith were arrested on charges of resisting arrest and violation of an executive order. Jonathan Warren is facing the same charges, in addition to damage to property.
According to arrest warrants, all four of the protesters violated Cooper’s executive order by attending the gathering and not maintaining social distancing measures when asked by law enforce, according to local media.
A protester also violently pulled on the northeast gate of the mansion and broke it, according to North Carolina State Capitol Police. The officials said that prompted them to back away from the fence and maintain social distancing.
“While protests can be subject to restrictions on time, place and manner, they are held as a fundamental right under the Constitution. State Capitol Police respects the constitutional right to peaceably assemble,” a State Capitol Police spokesperson said in a statement to WCNC.
Smith’s husband, Adam Smith, reportedly said, “this is how Nazi Germany started,” while being handed money for bail by other protesters, according to the News & Observer.
Audrey Whitlock, another leading member of ReOpen NC, shared with the organization’s Facebook group Sunday that she had tested positive for COVID-19. She said that she had “been forced to quarantine” in her home for two weeks.
She said that Cooper’s stay-at-home order violates her First Amendment, Fifth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights.
“I have been told not to participate in public or private accommodations as requested by the government, and therefore denied by 1st amendment right of freedom of religion,” she wrote.
There have been 9,948 confirmed coronavirus cases in North Carolina as of Wednesday morning. The state has reported at least 354 fatalities from the virus.