MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For a second day in a row, protesters gathered Friday outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, urging Gov. Tim Walz to end the state’s stay-at-home order.
At noon, dozens of protesters could be seen lining the street in front of the governor’s residence, holding signs and American flags.
“I’m a small business owner and my business was shut down forcibly on the 17th of March, and I have yet to see any unemployment, any money come through from the government,” one protester told WCCO. “I’m sitting here waiting here without a paycheck, with no definitive answer on when I will be returning to work, and I don’t think that’s right.”
The group is calling themselves “Liberate Minnesota.” Their organizers say the state’s stay-at-home order has gone on long enough and Minnesotans should be able to go back to work.
In a daily briefing Friday, Walz said he respects the right to protest, but those involved need to practice safe social distancing.
— Marielle Mohs (@MarielleMohs) April 17, 2020
“I will never stop dissent, but when you are advocating for really reckless behavior, that’s a different thing,” Walz added.
Protesters say the stay-at-home order has left them feeling shut out of work during this crisis.
“I feel like all jobs are essential in the state of Minnesota, and I don’t feel like any governor, even Gov. Walz or anybody else, can determine who or when we decide we want to go to work or where we work or anything like that,” one protester told WCCO.
The majority of the crowd was not following social distancing guidelines; many also didn’t have masks on. What they did have was a determination to get everyone in the state back to work.
Jason Lewis, the former congressperson now running for U.S. Senate, showed his support for the protesters. He tweeted Minnesota is being “held hostage,” and said we must reopen and we must do it now.
On Thursday, when another group protested at the governor’s residence with the same message, Walz said that while the protesters have a right to demonstrate, he asked them to still abide by social distancing guidelines.
Last month, Walz issued a stay-at-home order that was initially supposed to last two weeks. However, he extended the order last week, and it’s now set to expire on May 4.
The order directs Minnesotans not to leave home unless for essential jobs and activities. In the last week, more jobs and activities have been given clearance to reopen. Just Friday, outdoor facilities such as golf courses were given the OK to open their doors.
Still, bars and restaurants remain closed to dine-in customers, as do gyms, salons and pet grooming services. Business have been forced to lay off or furlough employees. As such, the state has seen more than 450,000 people file for unemployment benefits.
Meanwhile, the governor and state health officials say the stay-at-home order is giving the state’s health care system time to prepare for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases, thus preventing the system from being overwhelmed. The governor is slated to give an update on the state’s battle against the pathogen Friday afternoon.
So far in Minnesota, more than 2,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and 111 people have died. The disease attacks the lungs, and can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia. While 223 people are currently being hospitalized for the virus, more than 1,000 people have recovered.