Mainers Urge Governor to Reopen Economy in Protest Outside State House

ReOpen Maine and Mainers Against Excessive Quarantine held the event to urge Gov. Janet Mills to reopen the state's economy

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Dozens of protesters gathered Monday on streets and sidewalks outside Maine's State House and the governor's residence to protest stay-at-home orders.

The event, organized by ReOpen Maine and Mainers Against Excessive Quarantine, was held to urge Gov. Janet Mills to reopen the state's economy.

Around noon, lines of honking cars moved slowly down Augusta's Capitol Street past crowds of people lining the sidewalk.

Speeches were given on the side steps of the State House, including one by U.S. House Republican primary candidate, Eric Brakey, who criticized what he called an overreach of Mills' authority, though she has been given emergency powers by a vote of Maine's legislature.

"Based on an executive order, we are in a state of shutdown, with no input, with no accountability and with backroom meetings that the public is not privy to," Brakey said.

A Portland Press Herald report did show evidence of private briefings with legislators and virtual meetings given without public notice.

However, the paper also says Mills' office postponed planned subsequent meetings to fix transparency problems.

But for the estimated 150 protesters, Mills' public actions are cause enough for outrage.

"I challenge that a dispensary for pot is more critical than daycare," said one speaker, opposed to Mills' determination of what is or isn't an essential business under her COVID-19 orders.

"I think we need we need to take a smart look at reopening sections of Maine now," said Katrina Smith of Palermo. "People are suffering at home."

Maine has had record-breaking weekly unemployment filings with a four-week total exceeding 89,000 according to Department of Labor statistics.

"I grew up with chickenpox, smallpox, mumps and measles and we didn't do this," said Blaine Richardson of Hope. "If [people] want to violate social distancing, get sick and maybe die, that's their business, it's not the government's business."

Maine's total positive COVID-19 cases Monday was 875 with 414 recoveries, according to the state's Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Dr. Nirav Shah. There have been 35 deaths.

For Maine independent U.S. Senator, Angus King, those numbers are still enough to cause concern. He said backing off precautionary measures too early could cause numbers to spike.

"This is a very difficult decision, but the ultimate responsibility of any leader is the health and safety of their people," King said.

Calls to the governor's communications office were not immediately returned.

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