Video shows crowds in Raleigh protesting Gov. Cooper’s stay-at-home order

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UPDATE:

11:45 a.m.: Reopen NC co-founder Ashley Smith said the group’s resounding message to Gov. Roy Cooper is to lift the restrictions.

Smith called the governor’s orders “draconian.”

“Gov. Cooper, you are not a king and we are not your subjects,” Smith said. “Reopen North Carolina.”

She said her goal is to have the state reopened by May 1.

11:10 a.m.: Raleigh police on motorcycles could see parked in the middle of the road as protesters holding signs that read “Stop the tyranny” and “Reopen NC” clogged the streets.

11 a.m.: Protesters holding signs and blaring car horns began to assemble in downtown Raleigh Tuesday morning to demand Gov. Roy Cooper reopen the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the second week of protests near the General Assembly. One arrest was made last week.

The demonstrators said they will continue to show up until the governor lifts his stay-at-home order.

State health officials announced 34 new deaths being attributed to the virus on Tuesday – marking the deadliest day for the state so far.

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – An even larger crowd is expected in Raleigh Tuesday compared to last week to protest Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order, as protests occur in states across the country.

Last week’s protest in Raleigh drew more than 100 people and ended when Raleigh police ordered them to leave, arresting one woman in the process.

“I believe North Carolinians are extremely intelligent and could handle this given the chance without sacrificing their entire livelihood,” said Ashley Smith, co-founder of ReOpenNC.

Over the weekend, attorney Anthony Biller sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and Greg Ford, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, calling on the two to put in writing that “protestors will not be detained, arrested, or prosecuted under their quarantine orders” as long as people adhere to social distancing.

Biller works for Michael Best and Friedrich, a law firm headed by Reince Preibus, former White House Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump and former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

On Monday, Biller gave CBS17 a copy of a letter he received from William McKinney, general counsel for Cooper.

In the letter, McKinney writes that the governor’s executive orders do not ban outdoor protests.

“Reports from your clients’ protest of April 14, 2020, show that the six-food Social Distancing Requirement identified above was not maintained by many participants. By doing so, they endangered themselves, their families, their friends, and others with whom they came into contact. When the six-foot Social Distancing Requirement is not followed, law enforcement may intervene to enforce the order, and thereby protect both the public and the protesters themselves,” McKinney writes.

In an email, Dory MacMillan, spokesperson for Gov. Cooper told CBS17, “the governor is taking strong steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 with public health and safety as the top priority. The governor’s order does not interfere with first amendment rights and this letter explains that.”

Cooper’s stay-at-home order runs until April 29 and could be extended of modified, he has said.

The governor has said he’s concerned about the lack of supplies to test people who may be positive for COVID-19, adding that’s a key part of the strategy to reopen the state’s economy.

Over the weekend, researchers at Harvard’s Global Health Institute said the country needs to triple its testing capacity to reopen safely.

“We need all of these supplies to collect more test samples and to ensure hospitals and first responders have what they need,” Cooper said.

A poll conducted last week by Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling found 69 percent of North Carolina voters think the state’s response to COVID-19 has “been about right.” Meanwhile, 11 percent of voters feel the state is underreacting, compared to 15 percent who think it’s overreacting.

On Monday, state Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States, adding that the numbers would be higher if the state had not issued a stay-at-home order.

Ashley Smith, one of the organizers of ReOpen NC, is calling for more clarity from Cooper on how he plans to reopen parts of the economy impacted by the virus.

“I believe North Carolinians are extremely intelligent and could handle this given the chance without sacrificing their entire livelihood,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC 9th) and state Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) have both said they plan to attend Tuesday’s rally. Both called attention to a tweet by Raleigh Police at last week’s rally in which they said, “Protesting is a non-essential activity.”

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said as with other protests in Raleigh, law enforcement agencies have discussed how to respond to Tuesday’s demonstration.

“Law enforcement is prepared, hopefully, to maintain a safe opportunity for people to have their voices heard, but they’re also prepared that if necessary they’ll take action and enforce the law,” she said. “These types of activities place a lot of extra stress and responsibility on already insufficient law enforcement resources.”

The letter sent over the weekend to Cooper and Commissioner Ford also called on the charge against Monica Ussery, who was arrested last week, to be dropped.

Freeman said she did not receive the letter directly but later obtained a copy of it. She said she’s asked to review police body camera footage from the protest.

 “I did authorize that charge,” she said. “We will evaluate it and try to make a determination based on the evidence. I certainly respect the role of civil disobedience. At the end of the day, our responsibility is to uphold the law, and we will do that.”

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