RICHMOND, Va. -- The echos of horns and loud speakers filled Downtown Richmond’s streets as protestors paraded around Capitol Square on Wednesday.
The ReOpen Virginia drive-in rally was designed to send a message to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam – reopen Virginia's economy sooner rather than later.
"If we go to June 10, and suddenly people get out of their houses and they want to go back to work, but their employers aren't there. So now we've got a huge unemployment crisis," rally organizer Dave Britt said.
Car horns could be heard inside the tents as lawmakers met during a reconvene session outside the State Capitol grounds.
Hanover winery owner Ed Cowdrey joined the protestors urging Northam to end his stay-at-home order that’s set to expire on June 10.
“Small business owners - their livelihoods are at stake. These are businesses we built with our life savings. We’ve put our lives purpose in a lot of these businesses and they’re being utterly destroyed,” Cowdrey explained. “I would love for small businesses to be allowed to reopen obviously with safety protocols.
According to federal guidelines, Virginia would need to report 14 consecutive days of a decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases in order to begin Phase one of reopening the state.
Dr. Erich Bruhn drove from Winchester to speak in opposition to the rally.
“My practice is shut down. It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” the surgeon said. “I think it’s important that people realize this is a minority of citizens. Most people are at home sheltering in place and this isn’t representative of the population.”
During the rally, a man in scrubs was standing in the street holding a sign that read:
"Distance because the science says so, not because the governor says so."
Governor Northam has remained adamant the state will reopen, but wrote in a tweet "we have to do it using science, data, and testing—and we have to make sure we do it safely."
I know the #COVID19 pandemic is taking a serious toll on our economy and the lives of all Virginians. And I want us to get to a place where businesses can re-open.— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) April 17, 2020
We will get there, but we have to do it using science, data, and testing—and we have to make sure we do it safely.
Rally organizers hoped the state is re-opened soon, but with precautions.
“I’m not advocating that we flip the switch and say everybody go to work tomorrow. What we're talking about is working together to open in a mindful and reasonable way,” Britt said.