JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Although Florida is scheduled to start the reopening process Monday, some demonstrators gathered in San Marco Square on Thursday and called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and Mayor Lenny Curry to end the shutdown of businesses and public places now.
Parents with children were among nearly 100 people who came out for what they called a “freedom rally.”
They held signs with messages that read “Bartenders have families too," “All businesses open now," “Flatten the unemployment curve," and “Forget phases, open now” as a portion of the Constitution was read over a loudspeaker. They then drove past the mayor’s house in protest of the executive orders placed on the city to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“There are lines around buildings for food banks to get food. There’s a serious issue with our economy and it’s only getting worse," said Rachel Hanes, a spokesperson for the rally.
Hanes said they’re frustrated with the decisions by both Curry and DeSantis to shut everything down, despite DeSantis announcing phases to reopen the state and the mayor following those phases to reopen the city.
“We don’t believe it’s constitutional for them to make mandates about what we can and can’t do and what businesses can and cannot be open. We believe all businesses are essential and it’s not the government’s place to shut down businesses and leave some open," Hanes said. “It’s not about denying the fact that there is a COVID issue, it’s about the government overreaching and taking advantage of the situation to control what we do.”
Under the governor’s plan to reopen Florida, restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to reopen Monday at 25% capacity, if the local government allows it. The governor said he was not allowing the reopening of gyms and barbershop in the first phase. Bars and nightclubs also won’t reopen yet.
“It’s in phases, but there are still other areas they can still open up,” said Erick Aguilar, who is running for Congress.
Two women from New York who drove by the protest said they were upset by what they saw on display.
“I disagree with it,” Safa Lama said.
Shi Lama added: “Seeing people I know and knowing people passing away and their family members, it’s heartbreaking. At the end of the day, lives are the most important thing. So seeing people protesting that and being so nonchalant about it is just sad."
Thursday’s demonstration followed a similar one last week in downtown Jacksonville.