Demonstrators drive around Capitol Square to protest Virginia’s coronavirus restrictions

Coronavirus

#reopenvirginia protest in downtown Richmond, Virginia (PHOTO ALEX THORSON)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Demonstrators lined up outside of the state Capitol in their cars Wednesday to protest against Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders. Honking could be heard echoing throughout downtown Richmond while protesters held signs like “my body my choice to work,” alluding to the governor’s stance on abortion.

Right now, Northam’s stay-at-home order is active until June 10 but non-essential businesses can re-open on May 8.

“If you are concerned, you have health issues, you’re free to stay home. We need to be free to go back to work,” Melissa Hypes from Staunton told our sister-station WRIC during the protest. 

“We have the right to work and make a living. Just let us,” Diane Stringer, a protester from Gloucester, said.

Stringer said she’s lived through polio, AIDS and SARS, and she doesn’t think COVID-19 should shut the economy down. Stringer and her husband own a floral shop and say they haven’t worked in weeks. 

“Northam says the flowers are non essentials so we can’t participate,” she said. “Why can Walmart sell flowers, and Home Depot and Lowe’s?”

RELATED: Scenes from the #ReOpenVirginia protest at the Virginia State Capitol

Stringer said the closed economy will have lasting consequences. “You can’t just shut everything down,” she said. “There will be two different kinds of deaths: the virus and there will be no country to come back to!”

Other protesters said they don’t think the virus is a threat.

“There’s millions of germs out there that we can catch every single day so this is just one of them,” one woman said. 

Fifteen-year-old Tommy Kostalac from Charlottesville agreed. “They’re shutting down all this but no one knows anyone who actually has it,” he said, referring to the coronavirus. 

“If I choose to go out and get myself exposed then that’s my choice,” Hypes said. 

This is the second #ReOpen Virginia protest. Governor Northam said on Tuesday night that he will not be persuaded by the protesters. He also said people who are rallying and not practicing social distancing are putting themselves and others at risk.

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