Protests draw thousands over state stay-at-home orders during coronavirus pandemic

WASHINGTON – Multiple states have seen protests as stay-a-home orders meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus continue.

Many protesters are angry about the economic ramifications the restrictions are causing. The Labor Department reported more than 5 million new unemployment claims Thursday.

A series of conservative groups have emerged to organize and participate in a series of national demonstrations to pressure their governors.

More: Sen. Kennedy says economic activity must resume even though that means coronavirus will 'spread faster'

The protests are occurring as President Donald Trump and governors debate over when states should loosen the restrictions put in place to ensure people practice social distancing.

The White House introduced guidelines Thursday for governors to follow to reopen their respective states.

These follow a week of turbulent communication between the White House and states about whether it was up to the president or the governors to decide when, and how, to reopen their economies.

Less than 24 hours after issuing these guidelines, Trump called on supporters Friday to "liberate" some states that have experienced such protests over lockdowns.

More: Here's what the Constitution's 10th Amendment says about Trump's claim to have total authority over states

More: Stimulus checks are going out to people who have died, what that means for relatives

Here are some states that have seen protests thus far:


More than 100 protesters gathered on Friday at Huntington Beach to participate in a demonstration against California’s stay-at-home guidelines, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Coronavirus: Newsom announces economic task force with four former California governors

Protesters could be seen holding American flags and donning Trump campaign paraphernalia. Some could be seen hugging and not following CDC guidelines on social distancing, according to videos.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a six-point plan in which those conditions must be met before modifying the stay-home order, which is in place until further notice.

Newsom and the governors of Washington and Oregon also announced a pact to coordinate loosening of restrictions.

A record 3.1 million people have filed for unemployment insurance since March 12, Newsom said, breaking California’s streak of 119 consecutive months of job growth

More: Protester arrested outside Governor's Mansion after trapping himself in concrete-filled barrels


Hundreds of protesters gathered Friday in front of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz's residence to show their disdain over the state's stay-at-home order.

On Facebook, the group planning the protest named "Liberate Minnesota" said, "Thousands of lives are being destroyed right now. It is not the governor's place to restrict free movement of Minnesota citizens! Gov. Walz you work for the citizens of this state! Minnesota's economy must be reopened for business or destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Minnesota citizens and their families may result if we don't act quickly!"

More: Trump calls to 'liberate' states where protesters have demanded easing coronavirus lockdowns

President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted, "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" after announcing the day prior he'd allow state's governors to decide when to re-open. He posted similar tweets about Michigan and Virginia.

Minnesota's count of confirmed coronavirus cases climbed above 2,000 Friday, with 17 new fatalities raising the state’s death toll to 111, according to local commercial radio station KNSI.

Walz announced on Wednesday he would extend Minnesota's stay-at-home order, as well as bar and restaurant closures, to May 4. The order, which began on March 27, was originally supposed to end April 10.


A protest took place in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday by a group upset with the stay-at-home order put into place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

According to television station WHSV, a group known as "ReOpen Virginia, End The Lockdown VA and Virginians Against Excessive Quarantine" had planned a gathering at at Virginia's Capitol Square on Thursday.

More: DNC Milwaukee Host Committee reduces staff by more than half through layoffs and transfers

According WHSV, the group of protesters who showed up was smaller than expected.

However, Capitol Police still had to shut down Richmond's Capitol Square, outside the General Assembly, because the number of people who attended violated a state executive order prohibiting 10 or more people from gathering who don't practice socially distancing.

On Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced he was extending the end-date of Virgina's business closures by two weeks. It was set to expire on April 23, but now will continue until at least May 8. The stay-at-home order for Virginians remains in effect until June 10, as it was originally set.

“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny,” said ReOpen Virginia in a press release


Demonstrators drove thousands of vehicles – many draped with protest signs – to Michigan's state Capitol on Wednesday, loudly protesting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order.

The demonstration was dubbed "Operation Gridlock" because organizers said they wanted to gain attention by tying up traffic. With the thousands of vehicles, traffic was backed up for more than a mile around the Capitol in several directions, according to Lt. Darren Green of the Michigan State Police.

More: Gov. Whitmer says Capitol protesters put others at risk, may have worsened pandemic

State infection numbers in Michigan appeared to flatten somewhat going into last weekend, but both infection and death numbers were up again on Monday. Health officials have recently expressed cautious optimism but have added that it is too soon to say that the infection has reached its peak in Michigan.

Whitmer said she respects the right to protest, saying it does not violate the stay-at-home order, but she said many of the protesters put themselves and others at risk of contracting COVID-19.

More: Trump threatens to invoke constitutional power to adjourn Congress because of hold-up over nominees

Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan on March 10 and announced a "stay-at-home" order March 23 that directed residents to stay inside, except for essential purposes, and told businesses deemed nonessential to stop calling employees in to work. Last week, she extended that order until May 1, while imposing tougher restrictions on nonessential travel and some retail outlets.

Michigan has the third-highest number of coronavirus deaths in the nation.


About 100 protesters demanded that Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear reopen Kentucky, and disrupted his televised Wednesday afternoon pandemic update by chanting, blowing horns and shouting into a megaphone outside the window of the briefing room, nearly drowning out his comments to Kentuckians.

Protesters, some of whom appeared to be standing less than 6 feet apart from one another, chanted "we want to work" and "facts over fear."

About halfway through his briefing, Beshear acknowledged the protesters, saying "there's some noise in the background."

"We do have some folks up in here in Kentucky today – and everybody should be able to express their opinion – that believe we should reopen Kentucky immediately, right now," Beshear said. "Folks, that would kill people. That would absolutely kill people."

More: Stimulus program for small business nearly depleted as Congress still negotiating a deal

The protesters particularly disagreed with Beshear’s decision to order the closure of myriad businesses across the commonwealth — a move he made to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has killed 122 Kentuckians and infected 2,291 so far.


Around 100 protesters gathered outside the Statehouse during GOP Gov. Mike Dewine’s appearance on Monday, at least one wearing a Donald Trump hat while many carried signs expressing displeasure at the stay-at-home order or waved American flags.

Additionally, a growing chorus of Ohio’s Republican lawmakers want DeWine to set a date for the first phase of re-opening businesses, schools and public places.

Earlier, the first-term Republican governor made it clear during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that any loosening of the stay-at-home order would be contingent on coronavirus testing results and other health data.

“Whenever we open up, however we do it, if people aren’t confident, if they don’t think they’re safe, they’re not going to go to restaurants, they’re not going to go to bars, they’re not going to really get back into society,” DeWine said.

More: California expands aid to undocumented workers, bolsters unemployment benefits help center

One protester questioned whether DeWine was truly a Republican, asking, "Don't he believe in less government? Small government?"

Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued the stay-at-home order March 22, but schools have been closed since March 12. That order expires May 1, but it’s increasingly likely that students and teachers won’t return to their classrooms this academic year.


Hundreds of Utah residents gathered Wednesday to protest the state's closures of businesses and facilities due to the coronavirus.

St. George resident Larry Meyers organized the event in an effort to "assert our God-given, Constitutionally-protected rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, religious freedom, the right to contract, and the right to use our property as we see fit so long as we do not harm others" according to a Facebook post.

More: White House defends Ivanka Trump's trip to New Jersey despite advice against travel to stop coronavirus' spread

There was a large turnout in front of the Washington County administration building as people marched around the block holding signs urging Gov. Gary Herbert to re-open non-essential businesses.

Deborah Palmer, a St. George resident who owns a small business, says that her concern for her family's job security is what brought her out to the march.

"My daughter is out of work, my husband's work has slowed down and I'm out of work because of this," Palmer said. "I hope our representatives and our governing officials get to see that there is a great number of us who do not support the government mandate and restrictions taking away our rights."

North Carolina

Police in North Carolina on Tuesday arrested a protester after more than 100 people gathered in downtown Raleigh to protest Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order.

The arrest was made by the State Capitol Police, according to the Raleigh Police Department. RPD released a statement on social media regarding the protest and said “protesting is not listed as an essential function” under stay-at-home orders issued by Cooper and Wake County, where Raleigh is located.

More: China didn’t warn public of likely pandemic for a pivotal 6 days, AP report shows

Cooper’s order was originally announced March 29 and is set to be in effect until at least April 29. Wake County’s order went into effect March 27 and is set to be lifted Thursday, though the Raleigh News & Observer reported the county is expected to extend the order two weeks. The News & Observer reported there were more than 100 people at the protest.


Protests are planned for Monday in front of the state Capitol in Harrisburg, according to The York Daily Record.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a stay-at-home order will be in place until April 30. The groups protesting are against lockdown restrictions being extended beyond May 1.

In an almost identical statement from other state's organizers, groups ReOpen PA, End The Lockdown PA and Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine argue that forcing healthy people to stay home is "tyranny."

More: Vice President Pence shows alliance with governors, despite Trump's attacks

The protest "would be unfortunate, if they actually go through with that," the governor said.

"That's going to be their choice. I'm sorry that that's happening, if that in fact happens, because to the extent they're banding together and violating the social distancing guidelines, they're actually hurting themselves," Wolf said

Rally organizers are asking anyone attending to practice social distancing and wear appropriate protective equipment. For those worried about standing near the crowd, feel free to honk in support from a car, Bellis said.

Contributing: Paul Egan, Kara Berg, Detroit Free Press; Jordan Culver, USA TODAY; Anna Staver and Cole Behrens, The Columbus Dispatch; Morgan Watkins, Joe Sonka and Jon Hale, Louisville Courier Journal; Terell Wilkins, The (St. George, Utah) Spectrum; Kim Strong, The York Daily Record.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Multiple states see protests over stay-at-home rules