Protesting is a Non-Essential Activity: Unconstitutional During 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?

At the time this article was written, at least 131,037 people — or slightly greater than 6.56 percent — have died of the minimum of 1,995,983 confirmed cases worldwide, according to this situation dashboard from the World Health Organization pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus…

Protesting is a Non-Essential Activity: Unconstitutional During 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?

…so one would argue that everyone must do everything within their power to ensure that more people do not die from the disease which this virus causes. That includes properly washing hands; ensuring the surfaces are sanitized, disinfected and clean; maintaining a distance of at least six feet from the nearest person; and staying at home unless going out is absolutely necessary.

State and local jurisdictions have closed off borders to prevent interstate travel and issued executive orders to help constituents significantly slow down the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus for the protection and safety of everyone — including this executive order number 121 which was issued by Roy Cooper, who is the current governor of the state of North Carolina.

However, people have started gathering together in several states — again, including in North Carolina — in protest, demanding that their jurisdictions re-open again for business.

We are aware of the #ReopenNC protest that is occurring in Downtown Raleigh on Wilmington and Jones Street and are monitoring the situation”, according to this message which was posted at the official Twitter account of the police department in Raleigh. “The protestors are in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order and have been asked to leave.

When someone asked “What part of the governor’s order was violated here?”, the official response from the police department in Raleigh was “Protesting is a non-essential activity.

Section 3 on page 9 of the aforementioned executive order in North Carolina states the following:

For the reasons and pursuant to the authority set forth above:

A. Section 1(a) of Executive Order Nos. 117 and 120 is rescinded and replaced as follows:

  1. A mass gathering is defined as any event or convening that brings together more than ten (10) persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. This includes parades, fairs and festivals.
  2. A mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers. It also does not include any COVID-19 Essential Business or Operation as defined in this Executive Order.
  3. Notwithstanding the above, and in an effort to promote human dignity and limit suffering, funerals are permitted to include no more than fifty (50) persons, while observing Social Distancing Requirements to the extent practicable.
  4. Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 166A-19.30(a)(2), -19.30(c) the provisions of this section shall be enforced by state and local law enforcement officers.

The remainder of Executive Order Nos. 117 and 120 continue to be in effect.

The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States is as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the formal response from the Raleigh Police Department which addresses the aforementioned statement verbatim:

The goal of the Raleigh Police Department is to help residents remain as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic by reminding them to observe the Wake County Stay-at-Home Proclamation and the Governor’s Executive Orders. In these unprecedented times and unusual circumstances, both the Governor and the County have declared a state of emergency. Under these current and temporary declarations, protesting is not listed as an essential function.

The Wake County District Attorney is the individual who decides charging language for failure to adhere to the Governor’s Orders and the Wake County Proclamation, when charging is appropriate, and what charges individuals may face for violating either one of these orders. However, as a law enforcement agency, the Raleigh Police Department is bound to carry out the regulations stipulated in the Executive Order and the Wake County Proclamation.

But more important is the health and wellness of all who live in our community, including the officers who must engage in circumstances such as these. We simply want everyone to be safe during this very serious public health crisis.

Any questions related to the arrest at the protest at the State Capitol should be directed to the arresting agency, the State Capitol Police.

Summary

One can logically assume that the assembly of people to peacefully protest is included as to what is not permitted as stated in section 3 of Executive Order No. 121 from the state of North Carolina; but one can also argue that assembling to peacefully protest is not specifically stated in that executive order, either — even though the official statement from the Raleigh Police Department suggests otherwise…

…and one can further logically assume that freedom of speech is protected by the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States; but one can also argue that the first amendment covers members of the House of Representatives — and not a governor of a state — who shall make no law prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble; and it does not mention any exceptions to emergencies such as a pandemic.

One of the first words when I think of travel is freedom; and freedom in general is critically important to me in terms of quality of life. Freedom of speech and expression is paramount to a civilized society and to the openness of new ideas. It is the main reason why I do not censor any comments — regardless of content, other than obvious “spam” — posted here at The Gate in its history of almost 14 years…

…but does the statement of “protesting is a non-essential activity” by — or certain actions as a result of — the police department in Raleigh violate the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States; or is it necessary in order to eviscerate the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in an effort to save as many lives as possible?

I believe that if the people who were involved in the aforementioned protest were doing what they could to prevent the 2019 Novel Coronavirus from spreading — maintaining a distance between themselves as one example — and were expressing themselves in a peaceful manner, then they have an absolute right to assemble to express their thoughts…

…but what if those protesters were flagrantly violating Executive Order number 121? Even if law enforcement officers do what they can to uphold the law, does a police department — or any legal authority, for that matter — have an obligation to quell a peaceful assembly?

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

15 thoughts on “Protesting is a Non-Essential Activity: Unconstitutional During 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?”

  1. NB_ga says:

    I would suggest that protesting might be the most essential activity we have as Americans? Perhaps we are forgetting that in this current mood… “safe” from a virus means nothing without our basic liberties in place.

    I was unaware that the governor of any state nor the county district attorney had the right to amend or overturn our Constitution. So the whole argument appears moot.

    That said, in the photos posted on the Raleigh police twitter, the protesters do indeed appear to be both peaceful and abiding by social distancing guidelines. I am unclear why the police would be feel they need risk their safety to get involved at all.

  2. Chris says:

    Those protesters were not following proper social distancing guidelines, just like the billionaire astro-turf protesters in Michigan. We are all sacrificing so this virus can be contained and we can get back to a level of “normalcy” until a vaccine is available. These people not only sacrifice their health along with their families and rural communities (in reports many of the NC protesters came from rural areas to an area with far more cases to protest) but make the sacrifice of the many for naught. They are selfish deluded morons who I wish would only be harming themselves. They are no different than the anti-mask leagues in 1918. But I guess we all need to protest not being able to fertilize our lawns or dye our hair.

    1. NB_ga says:

      Over 22 million people are out of work. You may not need your hair dyed but that hairdresser NEEDS his or her income. Far more people are at risk from losing their lives from the loss of our economy and/or freedoms than from the virus.
      We were told two weeks of this lockdown, then two more weeks… now it is completely open-ended. We cannot live like this indefinitely. It is not nearly as trivial as wanting to go play or eat in restaurant. These are the lives of literally millions of people at risk. And not from the virus.

      1. Chris says:

        Maybe protest the lack of testing, which is required to actually get things back, than the closure because of a lack of preparation.

        The virus and the economy are linked whether we have stay-at-home orders or not. If people don’t feel safe going to hair salons, stores, planes, cruise ships, sporting events it doesn’t matter if they are open or not because the few mouth-breathing protesters aren’t the ones that are going to spend enough to save the economy. The pain from the economic losses are going to happen regardless of whether there are stay at home orders without the massive testing and monitoring required to keep this virus under control until a vaccine is available. It is not either-or.

        1. NB_ga says:

          The primary point in reference to this article – the opportunity to protest pretty much anything is a right in our country. No local government should choose to halt that freedom due to a virus or anything else.
          But, yes, better testing would be nice. As would an accurate anti-body test to verify that many of us could already have immunity to the virus. But the idea that we are waiting on a vaccine to regain normalcy is insane. We have had a vaccine for the flu for quite some time yet tens of thousands die from it every year. A vaccine will help some people some of the time. It will be a nice thing to offer for those who feel their age or immune system or other circumstances warrant it. But it cannot be considered a cure-all or the means to end this shut down.
          I agree it is not an either/or… keep those who are at greatest risk quarantined and allow those who feel more fragile to do so as well… let the rest of us get back to trying to live or there will be nothing to get back.
          It is convenient for those with jobs or circumstances that allow sitting in a safe home, sheltering in place with their tv and plentiful meals. For the rest of the country, that very shelter as well as the food and people in it are at great risk every day we keep their businesses closed.

          1. Chris says:

            I agree that they should be able to protest as long as they abide by the social distancing regulations, which they were not in Raleigh or Michigan. They also should be shamed for going to an area with more cases and then potentially taking the virus back to rural areas with few cases.

            The traitors waving confederate flags in Michigan were also blocking a hospital.

            Without massive testing there is no way to protect those with the greatest risk. Right now there is not enough testing for health care workers, much less those working in nursing homes or delivering necessities for those who need protecting.

            It will be interesting to see how this virus plays out as the rural red areas protesting the most and saying this is no worse than the flu or not that many people have died have the highest obesity and diabetes rates in the USA.

          2. Chris says:

            Also, this is not the flu. The vaccine is necessary unless we are willing to infect the entire world and kill millions of people. We are talking about one virus, not multitudes of changing flu strains. A Covid19 vaccine will help almost everyone, just like a polio or measles vaccine and will create the herd immunity for those too immune-compromised to get a vaccine. You are wrong that it will only help some people some of the time.

  3. George says:

    I hope we see a lot more resistance to big government here.
    It’s amazing that Americans just lay down their civil liberties so easily – over an appeal to ‘Safety’

    The death toll is so low, and yet, people are fine being locked in their houses.
    Heck, they are DEMANDING to be locked up.

    It’s like a little kid throwing an tantrum – ‘do what you want politicians, just make sure we’re safe’

    Obviously, I’m not complying with any part of it, currently in North Carolina, and not a lot of people wearing masks or anything. Maybe this is a state to look to with hope. The sheep of California/New York etc all want to be led to the slaughter of all their rights and liberties. As long as they don’t have to get a simple virus.

    It’s disgusting what people can do to each other – and just ask to be walked all over – because of a regular ol virus.


    In 1941, we asked our youngest people to go to Europe, kill Nazis. We asked our women to go to work, factories.

    Now? We ask every to stay home on their couch. Not because of some threat to our country, or an attack, or any form of duress. But because we’re scared and will give up anything for an overlord to project us.

    For shame – we’re watching the death of America, each day, more and more. We cut deeper to appease the loudest people. For shame…

    1. NB_ga says:

      George, thank you for your sane comments. As a fellow southerner, I applaud you. Our governor tried to hang tough but finally caved to the drama-laced whining as well. We can only hope he soon recognizes that his constituents have real lives and real needs in the real world.

    2. Carl WV says:

      “the death toll is so low”. COVID-19 has killed near as many people in the US already as the flu did in the 2018-19 six month season. And that’s with the extreme precautions being taken.

      Would the result be worse by 10 fold if the actions had not and were not taken. Anecdotally the experiences at nursing homes, family reunions, church assemblies, etc would indicate yes.

      How many saved lives would it take to offset some of your “civil liberties”?

  4. Chris@Oak says:

    China Impressed By Michigan Governor’s Totalitarian Policies

    BEIJING—In a candid speech Tuesday, President Xi Jinping stated he was “pretty impressed” by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, specifically praising her totalitarian policies.

    China’s dictator said he was actually a little jealous he hadn’t thought of some of her ideas himself.
    “She has some pretty great ideas — stopping people from gathering together even with their families, ordering people not to buy seeds — they can’t even plant their own food now! We hadn’t even thought of some of these innovative approaches,” the Communist president said. “We’re always looking for more ways to oppress people, and we were really inspired by Whitmer’s approach.”
    “Not bad, Gretchen.”
    Other dictators across the world also chimed in with words of support and affirmation for Whitmer’s policies, from North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un to Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei.
    The Chinese government quickly offered Governor Whitmer a consulting position with the Communist Party of China, which she readily accepted.

    -Posted via Babylonbee.com

  5. Your daddy says:

    I know a lot of Brian’s posts lately have been getting unfairly beat up but mark my words this is part of a bigger plan to take away freedoms long-term from all of us. We keep giving the government inches and they will take miles.

    As someone in Law Enforcement I find it completely disgusting that the Police Department’s answer is that protecting is a nonessential activity. Police Departments have a duty to uphold the constitution, protesting is a fundamental right of every citizen in this country.

    If this keeps up a year from now we are going to be Russia and China, have no freedoms all in the name of safety.

    Read the news, everyday there are stories of how these same restrictions can be used to enforce the “Green New Deal”, pollution etc. Make no mistake until we the people push back the government will continue to strip away our freedoms long-term.

  6. Chris says:

    I’m just glad I’m not playing the right-wing fever swamp drinking game with these comments. I’d be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.

  7. Chris@Oak says:

    @Chris- “ I’d be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.”

    Cause of Death: Covid-19

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