JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of demonstrators from #reopenFL were spotted moving through Downtown Jacksonville and into the Five Points neighborhood on Saturday.
The group has a Facebook page with more than 4,800 members. It says it’s a group of people that have joined together to compel Gov. DeSantis to end the shutdown of non-essential businesses.
They group believes all business is essential and that everyone should be able to work. Rachael Hanes is a member.
“It’s not that we don’t listen to the advice that’s given to us about not spreading germs or anything like that. It’s not about that. It’s about the government mandating how we do that, where we do it, when we do it,” Hanes said. “You know people can go to the beach and stand but if you sit down they’re going to have a police officer approach them. That isn’t American. That’s not freedom.”
The demonstrators said they plan to host another demonstration next week.
Protests against stay-at-home orders have been organized by small-government groups and supporters of President Trump. They staged demonstrations Saturday in several cities after the president urged them to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors.
Protests happened in Republican-led states, too, including at the Texas Capitol and in front of the Indiana governor's home. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott already said that restrictions will begin easing next week. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb — who signed an agreement with six other Midwestern states to coordinate reopening — said he would extend his stay-at-home order until May 1.
In Texas, several hundred people rallied on steps of the state Capitol to call for an end to social restrictions. Many protesters sought an immediate lifting of restrictions and chanted “Let us work!” in a state where more than 1 million people have filed for unemployment since the crisis began.
The rally was organized by a host of Infowars, owned by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who joined protesters on the Capitol steps. Jones is being sued in Austin over using his show to promote falsehoods that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut was a hoax.
Elsewhere, a few hundred demonstrators cheered and waved signs outside the Statehouse in New Hampshire, which has had nearly 1,300 cases of the virus and more than three dozen deaths through Friday.
“Even if the virus were 10 times as dangerous as it is, I still wouldn’t stay inside my home. I’d rather take the risk and be a free person,” said one of the protesters, talk show host Ian Freeman.
Trump is pushing to relax the U.S. lockdown by May 1, a plan that hinges partly on more testing.
Jordans reported from Berlin. Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.