The order was put in place in March to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. But as a result, it’s also forced a spectrum of businesses to close operations while many other have had to make adjustments. Activities and routines also taken for granted – such as socializing, attending church services, children playing on area playgrounds, and group sports have also been put on hold.
Locally, a Reopen New York rally is planned for 3 p.m. Friday at Jamestown’s Dow Park.
Area resident and 2019 Libertarian candidate for County Legislature Gerrit Cain is helping to organize the event. He said in a media release that his group understands and takes the COVID-19 virus seriously, but doesn’t believe that it is prudent, effective, or constitutional to have the government determine which businesses are and are not essential.
“We are concerned with the effects of the PAUSE and its associated shutdowns on livelihoods, mental health, and the overall well being of society at large,” Cain stated. “It is clear to us that there is a wide spectrum of views on how quickly to reopen, what to reopen and how. We believe that with clear information from regional and local health care experts, people should be free to live their lives and do business in a responsible manner. Likewise, we believe that societal and market forces can and will steer behavior and policies toward wise and prudent decisions in terms of the ‘how’ we reopen and restart our lives better than sweeping government mandates.”
Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings has said the city is monitoring the situation.
“We’re aware of it. We are working with the state police and they are monitoring social media so we can at least get a feel for what the potential crowd could look like, but for now we’re kind of in a wait-and-see,” Snellings said during the Jamestown City Council’s April 20 work session.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist also noted during the same meeting that while a special event permit to hold the rally isn’t necessary, it still could result in a violation of the governor’s executive order, which bans groups of people from meeting.
“There wouldn’t be any [amplified] sound or things like that so a permit wouldn’t be necessary. However, there is an executive order banning all social gatherings. A gathering of individuals of any size up until May 15 is still not permitted under the governor’s executive order. Anyone who violates that can be assessed a fine of up to $1,000,” Sundquist said.
The mayor reiterated his comment about how such an event could be a violation of the governor’s executive order during a Facebook Town Hall Q&A session on Thursday.
But Cain said the group intends for the rally to be a peaceful and respectful demonstration abiding by physical distancing.
“Participants will either remain in their vehicles or walk the sidewalks around Dow Park while maintaining an appropriate distance from one another. We will be carrying signs and likely singing some patriotic songs during the event. At no time do we intend to gather in a concentrated group,” said Cain.
WRFA also recently talked with NY Senator for District 57 and former Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and asked him his thoughts about these types of rallies taking place in New York State and around the country.
“I would encourage those folks to practice social distancing and to protect themselves, because we don’t know all the details (about COVID-19) and don’t have enough data,” Borrello said. “But I understand the impact and I agree there are serious constitutional questions to what is going on right now.”