Group protests Georgia’s coronavirus-related closures

A small group protested in Canton on Sunday and called on Georgia to roll back its shelter-in-place order and reopen the economy.

Photos showed some of the attendees wearing face coverings and carrying firearms. Others held signs that said “We will not comply” and “Open Georgia from the lockdown.”

The protest, which was streamed live on Facebook, was organized by Shane Hazel, a Libertarian candidate running for U.S. Senate this fall. It appeared to remain peaceful and was not interrupted by law enforcement.

Hazel said state officials should not be able to close businesses and tell residents to shelter in place.

“The audacity of these people is beyond words,” Hazel said at the protest. He said the country is facing a “long-time coming economic meltdown that is being masqueraded as a silly virus.”

More than 680 Georgians have died from the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Protesters turned out on Sunday, April 19, 2020, at the Cherokee County Courthouse in Canton. The sign proclaims: We will not comply!! End the tyranny. End the "lockdown." End the insanity. (Photo: Ben Hendren/Special to the AJC)

Credit: Ben Hendren/Special to the AJC

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Credit: Ben Hendren/Special to the AJC

Public health experts have said that the state's closures and social distancing mandates are working, and worry that loosening them immediately could lead to a rise in infections and deaths.

The gathering in downtown Canton mirrored some protests in other U.S. cities, as small groups called on the government to reopen the economy.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he is working on a plan to jumpstart the economy and is expected to announce details soon.

A small group of protesters turned out on Sunday, April 19, 2020, at the Cherokee County Courthouse in Canton. (Photo: Ben Hendren / Special to the AJC)

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Monroe County, meanwhile, became one of the first local governments in Georgia to formally urge Kemp to begin reopening the economy by the end of the month, with one commissioner calling his shelter-in-place an "extreme overreach of power." Some state legislators are adding their voices to the push.

“We’re letting fear blind us, instead of respecting COVID-19 and handling it in a more balanced approach,” said state Rep. David Clark, R-Suwanee, who called on Kemp to reopen the economy “not in a few days or weeks — but now.”