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About 1,500 people protest 'Safer at Home' order at Wisconsin Capitol, while others call for safety first

(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 11:46 AM CDT
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An estimated 1,500 protesters rallied outside the Capitol Building to express their opposition to Wisconsin's 'Safer at Home' order Friday, arguing that the order threatens their financial stability and their civil liberties.

The protest comes on the same day that the extended 'Safer at Home' order goes into effect, which continues to close all non-essential business and schools and bans public gatherings. However, the extended order

The Wisconsin Capitol Police estimate that about 1,500 people attended the rally, according to a statement from the agency Friday evening. Capitol Police add that no arrests were made and no citations were issued during the protest.

Their concerns

On Friday, protesters at the "Rally to Reopen Wisconsin" say that regardless, the extended order continues to make matters worse for people in Wisconsin.

Their top concerns include the harsh impact the order has on small business owners, many of whom have had to completely shutter their doors or limit their businesses to just curb-side pickups. Some protesters complain that while chains and conglomerates reap multi-million dollar stimulus loans, local businesses are left with chump change, they say.

Other protesters on Friday told NBC15 News crews covering the rally that the coronavirus is not hitting the state's rural counties as hard as urban populations like Madison, Green Bay and Milwaukee. Protesters say the stay-at-home order should reflect that, and allow those rural areas to open up sooner, rather than later.

Carolyn Carlson, of Eau Claire County, Wis. says her community has had relatively few cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and called for the order to be lifted so life can return to normal.

"They're losing their life's business. The facts just don't warrant shutting down everything. We don't shut down a 100,000 people just for that," Carlson told NBC15 News.

Mike Ford, who lives in Monroe County and says he was laid off from the cranberry marsh where he worked, echoed those concerns.

"We need this order lifted. People need to be able to go back to work," he said. "I would rather work rather than get a free check."

Many demonstrators

with messages reading, "Behind every small business is a family," and "Open Wisconsin."

Some protesters wore masks or bandannas in accordance with recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many did not.

Counter-protest

Some counter-protesters were on scene

The demonstration continued on Facebook,

Organizer Chris Walker said, "With social distancing, which our side is trying to promote, we obviously can't do that [protest in person]. We want to promote what we stand for."

Thursday night, counter-protesters also

. They placed over 1,300 candles outside the Capitol Building, one for every person hospitalized due to complications related to the coronavirus in Wisconsin.

Lawmaker reaction

Wisconsin's most prominent Republicans

, including Sen. Ron Johnson, a Trump ally, who says he is sheltering in place at his home.

“I’m neither encouraging nor discouraging them,” said Johnson, 65, whose career was launched by the Tea Party movement, a protest effort with ties to the current one.

Six months from an election, the demonstrations are forcing some Republicans to reckon with constituents who are pushing for radical changes to the safer-at-home order. Wisconsin's GOP-led legislature is currently suing the governor over the extended the stay-at-home order.

Also on Friday, Wisconsin's chamber of commerce

On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers

he cannot stop the protests, but he did urge everyone to stay safe. On Monday, officials

for the event.

Traffic concerns

NBC15 crews working downtown do report traffic delays because of the protest. While some drivers are on their regular commutes, dozens of cars also passed the rally honking their horns in support.

WATCH video from NBC15 News' reporters below, who have been covering the rally at the Capitol since it started Friday

From the protest at Capitol Square

Posted by NBC15 Madison on Friday, April 24, 2020

‘Rally to reopen Wisconsin’ set to officially start at 1 p.m. People already starting to gather outside the State Street entrance.

Posted by Amelia Jones on Friday, April 24, 2020

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