A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Protesters gather at state Capitol demanding Kentucky economy be reopened immediately

By Robin Cornetet and Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

Around 1,000 protesters gathered at the State Capitol on a bright sunny Saturday to get their message across that it’s time for Kentucky to “get back to work.”

The protesters included Republican lawmakers – three representatives and one state senator – who were critical of how Gov. Andy Beshear’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the state. They said he was hurting workers and businesses by not allowing them to immediately reopen the economy.

Beshear wasn’t in Frankfort on Saturday to have his usual coronavirus briefing that he has held every day since March 6. He said the briefings would resume on Sunday at 5 p.m.

Protesters gather on Capitol steps to demand reopening of Kentucky businesses. (Photo by Robin Cornetet/Kentucky Today)

The governor has taken steps to begin reopening the economy gradually. He introduced the first phase of his plan this week which calls for some businesses to resume on May 11. Churches can have in-person services, with restrictions, beginning May 20, he said.

The protesters said Besher was stepping on the rights of the U.S. Constitution with how he has handled it all. They said the coronavirus outbreak in Kentucky has not been bad enough to continue the extended closures of local businesses and public gathering places.

Some of the demonstrators who gathered at the Freedom Rally carried American and Confederate flags and a bluegrass band was on the scene to entertain as the large crowd began to gather.

Rep. Stan Lee, R-Fayette, talked about an editorial cartoon in a Kentucky newspaper that depicted people attending the rally as uneducated, selfish church-goers for wanting to worship God. “To that cartoonist, I say this: God loves you and He wants you to come to know Jesus and I do, too.”

“The Constitution was not written to restrict or restrain the people,” Lee said. “The Constitution was written to constrain the actions, and now the overreach, of the government.” Loud cheers ensued. after he made that statement.

“We see what is going on all around us in our country. We the people do not get our rights, freedoms and liberty from the government. We get them from God almighty. Which is why it is so disturbing we have a governor who will shut down the state to save lives and then veto the born alive bill. The hypocrisy is stunning. This is the same governor who made abortion clinic essential, but not churches.

“As of today, there have been approximately 240 deaths related to the COVID-19 virus in this state. But just since March 1 of this year, deaths by abortion are over 746.”

Lee alluded that EMW (abortion clinic) in Louisville is open because they are donors to Beshear’s campaign.

Lee talked about the shutdown of government based on experts with faulty predictions. “They have been wrong about everything. They have been wrong about the number of infections. They have been wrong about number of hospitalizations. They have been wrong about the number of ICU rooms. There models have been wrong from day one,” he said.

“We have hospitals all across this state fixing to go out of business and file bankruptcy.”

“And perhaps what is most distressing is we have allowed a police state to be created. Complete with a snitch line for neighbors to rat out other neighbors. All the while we have a governor taking down license plates of church-goers while at the same time letting prisoners go. Enough is enough. Wake up Kentucky!”

He told citizens to keep pushing back and to fear God, not the government.

Rhonda Hunter, of Louisville, said “I’m out here to get Kentucky back to work. It’s time for Kentucky to get back to work.”

Rep. Savannah Maddox thanked people for showing up and letting government know “we are not satisfied.”

“It matters that you are here, because whose house is it?” said Maddox gesturing behind her at the towering dome of the Capitol.

A resounding “ours” echoed among the crowd. “Is this the governor’s house? Is it the legislature’s house? This is your house.”

“(The governor) may not be here in this moment, but he’s going to hear what you have to say.”

Maddox said it wasn’t until the first protest on April 15 that the next day the governor, for the first time, talked about transition plan to get Kentucky back to work.

“This is working,” she said.

State Sen. John Schickel, a Republican from Boone County, said, “We’ll do what’s reasonable for public health, but we will never surrender our constitutional rights.” Schickel said it’s interesting to note that while many Kentuckians are filing for unemployment, “our government officials are still receiving their paychecks.”

Kentuckians from all over the state came to be a part of the rally and have their voices heard.

Allison Atkinson, of Winchester, said “there are more things I could do this beautiful Saturday but nothing more valuable than standing for constitutional rights of all Americans. Freedom of speech, religious exercise, assembly and association have all been attacked in the past month by Gov. Beshear’s unlawful and unjustified actions. We have had enough and it is time to live free again.”

Sue Zitzman, of Hebron, said she wanted to “make my voice heard” that her health is her responsibility, not the government’s. “I know where I’m going when I die. I love the Lord and I don’t live in fear.”

About one-fourth of Kentucky’s workforce has filed for unemployment since the coronavirus arrived and many of those claims filed a month ago are still being processed. The protesters said enough is enough. It’s time to “get back to work.”

Rhonda Hunter, of Louisville, said “I’m out here to get Kentucky back to work. It’s time for Kentucky to get back to work.”

Rep. David Hale asked for a moment of silence, first, for the people who have lost lives to COVID-19, then for the lives of unborn children who have died from abortion.

“How can an individual say he respects lives, and then allow over 700 children to be aborted in a clinic a few miles down the road?”

“The liquor stores are open” but churches are not, he said.

“Let’s stand for freedom. Let’s stand for righteousness. Let’s stand on the Word of God.”

Deborah Cain, of Berea, said “I just wanted to come and stand for liberty. As a Christian, I think we have been singled out. If you can go to Walmart and Lowes, you should be able to go to church.” Cain said she attends Berea Baptist Church.

The protesters were firm in their belief that Beshear had gone too far in keeping Kentucky closed for business and are demanding that to change.

Carol Miller, of Wilmore, said, “there’s no law that says we can’t assemble. There’s no law that says we can’t open businesses. I don’t like Gov. Beshear telling us what we can and cannot do.” Miller, who described herself as a pro-life Christian, said unlike deaths attributed to COVID-19, the abortions being performed in the state are “intentional deaths.”

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