On the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol, Lee Watts ordered a tight crowd: take off your masks.
Few spectators had chosen to wear one. But as Watts launched a rally against Kentucky’s coronavirus restrictions on Saturday, he called on outliers to remove any coating from their noses and mouths.
“Sunshine destroys virus,” Watts said, through federal study on effects of sunlight is still under review. “So one of the healthiest things you can do today is go out here in the sun.”
Carrying American and Confederate flags, around 1,000 protesters gathered at the rally in Frankfurt, where they denounced Governor Andy Beshear’s “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional” response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speakers at the event – including four state officials and a state senator, all Republicans – criticized the governor for harming workers and businesses by refusing to immediately reopen the economy.
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Beshear a introduced phase 1 of its plan, which calls on some companies to resume operations on May 11.
But protesters said the Kentucky coronavirus outbreak had not justified the extended closures of local businesses and public gathering places.
“I have said for many weeks that most businesses and many medical service providers here in the Commonwealth could have met the guidelines recommended by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and stayed open from day one,” Harrodsburg Rep. Kim King said.
“But this governor prefers to pick the winners and the losers.”
Before the rally, protesters lined the steps of the building, where a bluegrass orchestra performed outside the main entrance.
Several protesters wore military-style clothing and firearms, while others held signs that read “My rights> your fears” and called the Governor “Adolf Beshear”.
Under a podium, an x-ray technician wearing scrubs and a mask stood in silent protest against the rally. Several participants holding signs moved to block her as the speeches began, while others shouted insults at her.
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The technician, who is from Louisville but declined to give her name or workplace, said she came to Frankfurt because “there is so much that people don’t understand what’s going on around here. ‘them at the biological level “.
“This mask does not protect me. He protects you, ”she said. “And their rights do not include the right to kill their neighbors. I want the country to open up too, but I want it to be safe.”
State Representative Savannah Maddox, a Republican from Dry Ridge, disagreed.
Maddox said the Kentucky government has made residents “prisoners in their own homes” by restricting where they can and cannot go.
“It’s your health. You have every right to be here, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” she said, adding that “no one will ever make me get vaccinated.”
Maddox also defended his colleague Jack Roberts, pastor of Maryville Baptist Church, who continued to hold in-person Sunday services in Bullitt County.
At the rally, Roberts energized the crowd by announcing that a judge had ruled in his favor in a case against Beshear, saying the governor could not prevent his congregation from meeting.
He told the public not to believe what the local media reported on the judgment.
Saturday, the 6th American Circuit Court of Appeals State officials can’t stop Maryville Baptist to hold drive-through worship services during the coronavirus pandemic.
But the three-judge panel declined to extend the injunction to in-person services at the church, noting that it was uncomfortable doing so after receiving the case 24 hours earlier.
“The government can’t tell you you can’t have a church,” Roberts said Saturday.
Lexington rep Stan Lee echoed Roberts’ sentiments, calling Beshear a “hypocrite” for viewing abortion clinics as essential businesses, but churches not.
“It is distressing and disappointing that we have a governor who will shut down the state to quote saving lives and then veto the living-born bill,” Lee said, referring to a bill on the abortion. governor vetoed last month.
Todd Calvert, 54, of Louisville, said he attended the rally because he felt Beshear’s actions were “unconstitutional.”
“He has no right to prevent us from working and earning a living, especially since he cannot fix the unemployment system,” said the fashion designer. “There are thousands of people across the Commonwealth who are unpaid these days because it cannot make them pay.”
Protesters that day also pressured Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to curb what they said was Beshear’s grip on the state.
Maddox said the protests were the first time the voice of Kentuckians had been heard at one of Beshear’s nightly briefings.
And although Beshear announced earlier in the week that he would not be holding a press conference that evening, Maddox said he would have to listen to the group’s concerns.
“He might not be there and he might not hear you right now, but he is going to hear what you have to say,” she said.
Journalists Ben Tobin and Joe Sonka contributed to this report. Contact reporter Bailey Loosemore at [email protected], 502-582-4646 or on Twitter @bloosemore. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/baileyl.
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