Reopen Delaware: Rally draws group set to ‘return to normal’

The crowd chants U.S.A during the Reopen Delaware Rally at Legislative Mall in Dover on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — It wasn’t bells that were ringing out for freedom on Legislative Mall in Dover. Rather, it was a long parade of vehicles with their horns blaring their message to Gov. John Carney at the Reopen Delaware Rally, organized by the Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine group on Friday.

The grassroots movement, spearheaded by Middletown resident Lisa Marie McCulley, called for the governor to reopen the state from its current State of Emergency shelter at home directive made in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and said that it’s imperative to reopen the doors to all businesses that were deemed non-essential, along with churches, schools and other entities which was been closed.

Cars parade around Legislative Mall during the Reopen Delaware Rally in Dover on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We’ve been patient, and 13 more restrictions were put upon us,” said Mrs. McCulley, who said she was inspired by a previous movement in Michigan. “Our businesses were shut down. We lost jobs. Let me clear this up right now – every job and every business is essential.”

“Governor, we demand that you reopen our state now. To our church folk here, reopen your churches now. Businesses, reopen now. You do not need the government’s permission to have your businesses open. It is unconstitutional and we know it.”

Mrs. McCulley’s pleas were heard loud and clear by an audience that was in the hundreds, many shouting “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” in unison back to her.

She noted that Friday marked the 50th day that Delaware has been on lockdown and said it’s time to end the current state of fear the public is living under.

Organizer Lisa Marie McCulley speaks during the Reopen Delaware Rally at Legislative Mall in Dover on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Modifications to Gov. Carney’s coronavirus State of Emergency, first declared March 12, have brought closure of non-essential businesses, prolonged school closure, stay-at-home directives and social distancing requirements.

The governor’s modifications on April 1 imposed further restrictions on social gatherings with a limit of fewer than 10 persons, while also limiting the number of patrons that may frequent businesses at one time to a percentage of fire occupancy requirements.

“We believe that the waiting is over. We really truly believe that we have waited long enough,” said Mrs. McCulley. “The damage that has been done to our state, not just to our economy but to the people of our state. There are far more dangers to that than warrant the extreme quarantine that the governor has placed on us.”

Looking out at the large crowd that had gathered, it was obvious that many others shared her view that it’s time to reopen Delaware.

There were many people with face masks on, some without, while some were practicing social distancing while others didn’t seem to care.

Rally attendees recite the Pledge of Allegiance Friday. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Gov. Carney, at a press briefing in Wilmington, said he was aware of the protest in Dover and another one that took place in Wilmington.

“I have concerns. Obviously they have free-speech rights and so you always want to be careful, particularly with respect to that,” Gov. Carney said. “They don’t have the right to put other people at risk, which is what happens when they’re gathering kind of illegally.

“But, just as governor, I don’t want to go looking for or picking fights. I just don’t think it’s productive. I want people to work together. I would rather that they would gather to make their case with me in a kind of reasonable way. I hear them, they have every right to do what they’re doing, they do not have the right to do it in the way that they’re doing it, but it’s counterproductive I think to pick fights.”

Sen. Dave Wilson attended Friday’s rally in front of Legislative Hall and spoke to the crowd, wearing his red, white and blue face mask.

“I’m out here to support opening Delaware,” Sen. Wilson said. “We’ve got to get our state back up and moving again. As a state senator, I’m concerned about all small businesses, but as a small businessman, I’m concerned about that. On March 1st, Governor Carney had a golden spoon, but (he might) end up with a plastic fork if this economy goes south.

“I can recall when EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was dealing with the poultry industry the poultry farmers came and the poultry processing companies came out and said, ‘Do you want us?’ And that’s my question to Governor Carney now, ‘Do you want us? As a small business, do you really want us?’ (The state) did the (COVID-19) testing at Perdue in Milford and I thought that was great, but they only tested about one-third to half of the people – so I guess the other people went to Walmart shopping and they still haven’t fixed anything.”

He added, “It’s a sad time. I wouldn’t want to be in the governor’s position, but I’m saying that you can’t lock everything down. The government cannot be the paycheck for everybody every Friday night.”

The crowd gathered at Legislative Mall carried signs, all of them supporting reopening the state. There was no oppositional group to reopening the state to be found.

One sign in the crowd read, “No Planned Demic,” another, “We are Democrats, We are Republicans, We are all essential,” and another read, “Open!!! Churches, Beaches, Stores. No Lies”

Others were more personal, such as one attached to a car window that read, “Pregnant and unemployed since March.”

A general theme of dishonesty and being played politically appeared to be a common feeling at Friday’s rally.

“We’re out here to support the people about opening the state back up for working and to protest about dictatorship,” said Carroll Boone, of Milford. “The governor thinks he’s a dictator. First off, has anybody done the research on this virus? I have a daughter who’s a nurse and all the stuff she says they don’t even have a test that can accurately tell you what (COVID-19) is. And she’s not the only one, there’s several doctors all across the nation. It seems like the media’s not doing their research and putting this information out.

“Who’s putting out the false and the fake news? Not everything is being told and this is what I’m here fighting for. It’s all political. They don’t want (President Donald) Trump back in office. They’ve been trying to get him out of office since the day after he won the election. Whenever it’s something they have tried, they have failed … so they go another backup plan.”

Elaine Betts, of Dover, was out blowing her shofar, an ancient musical horn often used for Jewish religious purposes.

“It’s my way of yelling,” Ms. Betts said, with a laugh. “I think this (rally) is wonderful. I think it’s historic. I think it’s about time that America awoke and refused to let our basic freedoms be taken. I call this just another tea party.

“I work in healthcare, I’ve been an emergency room nurse for 45 years and I now work in chronic care management, but I know that the numbers that we are being fed are very misleading. Every death is being labeled as a COVID death. It doesn’t matter if you have Stage 4 cancer or if you were in an auto accident. My nursing friends up and down the state in the emergency rooms are twiddling their fingers. I believe that the shutdown was to let the hospitals prepare for an influx that never came.”

She added that while “every one of the deaths is a truly tragic and sad thing,” she just feels as if the numbers of people said to have coronavirus are misleading.

Mrs. McCulley said the answer to it all is simple – just reopen Delaware. Now.

“We believe that the waiting is over. We really truly believe that we have waited long enough,” she said. “The damage that has been done to our state, not just to our economy but to the people of our state. There are far more dangers to that than warrant the extreme quarantine that the governor has placed on us.”

Dover City Councilman David Anderson said, “Liberty still lives in Dover, Delaware.”


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

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.