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Protesters in Downtown Orlando Say Reopening the State a Question of Freedom

Businesses deemed 'non essential' have been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, plunging tens of thousands of Floridians into unemployment. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Protesters gathered outside a coronavirus briefing in downtown Orlando attended by Orange County leaders including Mayor Jerry Demings. They called for a state and county-wide stay-at-home order to be lifted. 

Organizer Justin Harvey says the group wants two things: businesses to be reopened as soon as possible and healthy people to be allowed to go back to work. 

Harvey says he’s worried about the long-term economic impact the shutdown will have on the region. He says his real estate business has already taken a hit since businesses have closed.

“We’d like to see it reopened as soon as possible and we’d like to see it reopened as we were, completely normal.”

Harvey says people who are at-risk should still be allowed to self-isolate at home and practice social distancing.

“I understand making recommendations, I understand if people are immuno-compromised or elderly. Yes, maybe you should take the measures to isolate yourself.”

Protesters did not maintain six feet of distance or wear masks and gloves as they waved American flags and Trump 2020 signs outside the Orange County Administration building.

Mayor Jerry Demings said protective measures couldn’t be enforced at the rally unless the law was broken.

“We don’t have any orders specifically in place regarding the types of public assemblies where First Amendment rights are being discussed or exhibited. We want to have voluntary compliance.”

Demings said if the demonstrators blocked traffic or jeopardized the life, health and safety of others, then deputies could act.

“It may be a bit debatable at this point whether they are truly doing that or not,” Demings said.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina agreed.

“We have not got involved and made arrests unless there has been a danger to the public, unless there has been property damage or significant disruption to major roadways due to traffic.”

“Until that happens you won’t see any enforcement action,” Mina said.

Demings announced an economic recovery task force at the coronavirus briefing. The task force will be made up of fifty experts from local industries including theme parks and hotels.

If you’d like to listen to the story, click on the clips above.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur


Danielle Prieur is a general reporter for 90.7 News. She studied journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and interned at 101.9 WDET. She is originally from the metro Detroit area.