Reopen Delaware plans to ‘Storm the Beach’ in Rehoboth on May 16

This story was updated on May 8

REHOBOTH BEACH — While the name of Reopen Delaware’s planned event, “Storm the Beach,” may sound a little aggressive, the group’s administrator Richard Bishop Sr. said the ultimate goal is to peacefully rally at Rehoboth Beach on May 16 to get the state to reopen Delaware’s beaches.

“Obviously, Ocean City (Maryland) has decided that they’re going to have some type of a reopening starting this weekend and we’re also seeing that in the Wildwoods (New Jersey), Mr. Bishop said. “The beach town mayors and business owners know if it continues the course it’s going on there’s going to be people going through their towns to get to Ocean City. We’d like to see that revenue that’s going to come from those visitors come to our state.”

Reopen Delaware, a group dedicated to “Getting our state opened back up in this shutdown” has announced on its Facebook page and on Twitter that it is planning its “Storm the Beach” on Saturday, May 16, at noon at the Rehoboth Beach bandstand.

The group is protesting the state of Delaware’s beach closures and the harm they say it is doing to local businesses that remain closed during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Bishop said, “This will be a mass act of peaceful civil disobedience, and it’s time for all Delawareans to step up and be involved.”

The Rehoboth Beach Police Department said Reopen Delaware officials have reached out to them about the planned event.

“The Rehoboth Beach Police Department understands that we are in the midst of (a) period of frustration and that our citizens and visitors want to express those frustrations,” said Lt. Jaime B. Riddle, professional standards unit commander with the Rehoboth police. “One of the primary missions of the Rehoboth Beach Police Department is to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America to include the right of its citizens to exercise free speech.

“Our agency is aware of the event planned for May 16th, 2020 and has met with the organizers of Reopen Delaware to begin planning for a successful and safe event. We will take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance, as well as, compliance with local and state laws. Our mission is to ensure that we provide participants a safe, orderly platform from which they can be heard.”

Lt. Riddle added, “We ask that those who plan to attend the event take advantage of their right to speak in an orderly manner compliant with local and state laws. We are appreciative of the professionalism of the organizers of Reopen Delaware and their willingness to coordinate this event with our agency to work towards our shared goal of a peaceful and safe event.”

Mr. Bishop said the group is inspired by the planned reopening of beaches in New Jersey and Ocean City, Maryland, and said it is time for Delaware to answer the call to reopen its beaches.

Posts on the Reopen Delaware Facebook page regarding the event illustrate the divisive nature of the issue.

Christine Brock wrote, “Peaceful protest doesn’t go hand in hand with breaking the rules set by (Gov. John) Carney and the town beach isn’t open (for) sunbathing or swimming, so if (you are) encouraging people (to) do that, you aren’t doing it right!”

In response, Jessica Marie posted, “It’s time we take our state back. The government works for ‘We The People.’ Their salary is paid by our tax dollars. (The governor) wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for us. This is our state and those are our beaches. You can stay at home in your bubble of comfort. No one is forcing you outside. I want my life back. I refuse to live in fear.”

Mr. Bishop said there has been a lot of response regarding the event on the group’s Facebook page and invites people to have a fun day at the beach and to bring “your beach chairs, coolers and most important, your voices.”

“This ‘Storm the Beach’ event kind of started with people on our own (Facebook) page spontaneously saying, ‘Hey, we need to get these beaches reopened,’ and they actually wanted to do it this Saturday,” he said. “I kind of let that thread develop and take its own course, and then we picked up on it and strategized a little bit and I came up with May 16 as the date.

“I kind of knew this was coming. Governor (John) Carney has also said during his daily press briefing that as the weather gets better and as it gets warmer and we get closer to Memorial Day people are getting tired of being stuck inside their houses and we’re looking forward to beach time and beach weather and I think it’s just a natural progression of events as we go forward.”

In comments last week, Gov. Carney estimated a late May target for reopening the state’s beaches.

Mr. Bishop said a lot of people have asked them about the plan for “Storm the Beach” and he said the goal is what the title implies.

“We plan on going on the beach,” said Mr. Bishop. “We’re doing this in Rehoboth because it is ‘the beach’ in Delaware and most people know it’s the one celebrities come to from New York and other areas, so it’s the big dog and we’re going to start it there. We hope to see enough people behind us, and we hope this continues.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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