Protesters gathered outside the state Capitol on Monday to demand that Gov. Tom Wolf reopen Pennsylvania's economy even as new social-distancing mandates designed to counter the new virus took effect at stores and other commercial buildings.
Flag-waving protesters — some with masks, some without — massed in front of the Capitol, ignoring social distancing guidelines to call on Wolf to end the shutdown of businesses deemed nonessential and to get nearly 1.4 million Pennsylvanians back to work. Others protesters drove around the block, horns blaring.
Kevin Depaulis, 55, a salesman in York Springs who expects to lose 40% of his income this year, said he was rallying to “end this nonsense,” adding that it should be up to local leaders to decide whether it's safe for businesses to reopen.
Protesters also took to the streets outside of Pittsburgh's City-County Building in Downtown, many of whom toted signs and guns.
One sign read "Give me liberty or give me COVID-19."
Lots of Trump supporters out here. Signs to get rid of Gov. Wolf. pic.twitter.com/MBj4JsykBU
— Ariel Worthy (@airreeulll) April 20, 2020
Some GOP lawmakers also attended the protest outside the Capitol, which was organized or promoted by several groups that recently popped up on Facebook, including one connected to a low-profile gun-rights group. It was one of several similar protests in state capitals around the nation.
Wolf and his health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, have said that protesters would risk spreading the virus by gathering.
Meanwhile, both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature were planning to return to session as Republicans push legislation that would take away some of Wolf's power to determine which businesses must remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Wolf, a Democrat, has said he will veto one bill sent to him last week and another that is expected to win House passage as early as Monday.
On Friday, Wolf said Pennsylvania has managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic and laid out a “framework” for a gradual reopening of the state’s battered economy, with more details to come this week. But he said serious obstacles remain, including a national shortage of coronavirus testing materials and the continued spread of the virus, with more than 1,000 new cases being confirmed daily in Pennsylvania.
Wolf said he would rely on an “evidence-based, regional approach” guided by health experts and economists that will help him decide when it’s safe.