'Fire Gruesome Newsom!': Stay-at-home protests in California and across the country

In N.Y., Gov. Cuomo indicated he wasn't impressed with the anti-lockdown turnout in Albany.
Image: A demonstrator sings  Amazing Grace during a "Reopen Delaware" rally calling for the reopening of the state  at the state capitol in Dover
A demonstrator sings Amazing Grace during a "Reopen Delaware" rally calling for the reopening of the state at the state capitol in Dover on May 1, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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By Dareh Gregorian

Protests against stay-at-home orders were held across the country on Friday, amid mounting frustration over the economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

While the protests were widespread, with rallies scheduled to held in at least 10 states, many were sparsely attended, including one outside of the Capitol building in Albany, New York. Protesters there chanted "USA! USA!" as they flew American and "Don't Tread on Me" flags.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he wasn't impressed with the size of the crowd — he noted there were "only a few dozen" while others issues in New York have drawn hundreds of protesters to the Capitol in the past.

"I get the arguments," he said, but decisions on how and when to reopen businesses will be made using data, not emotion. "This is not a political decision."

In Huntington Beach, California, a crowd of several hundred turned out to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom's order to close all beaches in Orange County after large crowds flooded the beaches last weekend. The protest included a plane flying overhead with a banner reading, "Fire Gruesome Newsom! Open California!"

A demonstration was also held outside of Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware, against Gov. John Carney's shutdown orders. Cars drove around the rally, honking their horns in support.

"We feel like our rights have been taken away without a plan," one protester told WGMD. "Carney's been reactionary instead of proactive. He will leave Walmart open, you can have 150 people in there, but you can’t have a mom-and-pop store with three or four people trying to buy a pair of socks or a pack of paper for their kids or something."

In Trenton, New Jersey, many of the demonstrators did not follow social distancing guidelines or wear face coverings as they protested Gov. Phil Murphy's handling of the pandemic in the hard-hit state.

Protester Ayla Wolf told NJ.com "Businesses are suffering, unemployment checks are not being sent, landlords are not getting rent. We feel like these directives are causing more suffering than is necessary."

A Monmouth University poll last week found 64% of New Jersey residents — support the restrictions. That figure is similar to national polls — an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in late April showed nearly 60 percent of American voters said they are more concerned that relaxing stay-at-home restrictions would lead to more COVID-19 deaths than they are that the restrictions will hurt the U.S. economy.

In Illinois, scores of protesters gathered outside of a state office building in Chicago to protest Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home orders in a rally organized by Freedom Movement USA, a pro-Trump group. Many of the protesters carried Trump 2020 flags or wore Trump gear.

Demonstrations were also being held in Florida, New Mexico, Tennessee, Colorado and Washington.

The rallies came one day after hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Michigan capitol building in Lansing, with some of the armed protesters making their way inside.

The protest came as the Republican-majority Legislature was debating an extension of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Legislature declined to extend the state's emergency declaration before it expired at midnight, and voted to bring a lawsuit challenging Whitmer's authority. Whitmer declared new 28-day states of emergency and disaster.

President Donald Trump tweeted in support of the protesters Friday morning, saying, "The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about Trump's support for the protesters given that some of them were militia members.

"The president was referencing generally that in this country you have a first amendment right to protest. I think that's something we all treasure here and we should rightfully. You have a right to do that constitutionally, but you must protest within the bounds of the law," McEnany said during her first press briefing Friday. "He encourages everyone to protest lawfully and also to engage in our social distancing guidelines which we think all Americans should engage in."