ReOpen NC protesters again take to the streets demanding rollback of COVID-19 safety measures

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Activists who want the North Carolina government to roll back coronavirus safety regulations on businesses took to the streets again Tuesday.

ReOpen NC protesters gathered outside the General Assembly in Raleigh starting at 11 a.m.

The protests were largely peaceful but four arrests were made.

Lisa Marks Todd, 55, of Raleigh, Wendy Kath Macasieb, 53, of Catawba and Ashley Elaina Smith, 33, of Morganton were all charged with violation of an executive order and resisting a public officer.

A fourth person, Jonathan Dane Warren II, of Union County also faces a third charge of injury to real property.

Jonathan Dane Warren II

Capitol Police said Warren is accused of damaging a mechanical gate on state property.

Smith, one of the organizers of the ReOpen NC Facebook group, called the arrests a "shocker."

In a release, Smith said that she suffered a wrist injury as a result and police "took away" her eyeglasses, limiting her ability to see.

"Not one Capitol Police Officer practiced social distancing during my entire ordeal," Smith said. "So much for following the law."

Capitol Police said that all were arrested after they violated an executive order by "participating in a mass gathering while failing to maintain appropriate social distancing and refusing to comply when given the opportunity to do so."

According to a crowd estimation program on Chopper 11, there were an estimated 350 people gathered at the protest at 11:30 a.m.

"Police, like our Governor, swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and today, they violated that oath," Smith said. "Prior to my arrest, we had worked peacefully and cooperatively with Raleigh PD and Capitol Police and the arrests were a shocker."

Counter-protesters also came out for Tuesday's rally. A group of people dressed in scrubs and wearing medical masks stood across the street from the ReOpen NC protesters. Some ReOpen protesters began shouting and heckling the counter-protesters.

Gov. Roy Cooper was asked about the protests during his Tuesday afternoon coronavirus press briefing.

"I understand that people are eager to ease these restrictions, I know it's frustrating to stay at home so much. A lot of families are hanging by a thread," he said. "The thing we have to put first and foremost is the public health and safety of North Carolinians. We have to make sure things are safe.

"I'm very eager to move into our phases of reopening," Cooper said. "We're going to rely on the science, we're going to rely on the data, and we're going to rely on the facts in order to move forward."

Smith said her group is moving forward, too.

"Our protests will continue. Our civil disobedience will accelerate," Smith said. "Our faith in the police has diminished. We will open North Carolina."

It's the third such protest in the last few weeks. Tuesday's protest comes as state legislators return to work to debate a $1.4 billion emergency spending plan touted as a way to help small businesses and expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

Another administrator for the ReOpen NC Facebook page said Monday that she was finishing up her 14-day COVID-19 quarantine.

Audrey Whitlock said she tested positive for the virus but has since gotten better.
Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.