Protesters demand Illinois reopen as governor relaxes some provisions of stay-at-home order

(The Center Square) – Hundreds of protesters in Springfield and Chicago said they want the state to open right away, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he won’t be swayed by signs or protestors.

In Springfield, Chicago resident Brian Mitchell said his sound and lighting company has been hit hard because there are no events. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order limits all public and private gatherings to ten or fewer. Such edicts were put in place by the governor on March 21 and have been extended through May 30. Pritzker said it’s to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Mitchell wanted to bring his professional sound system to Springfield to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order.

“We’ve been patient, giving the hospitals time to make arrangements to prepare, the state to prepare, but at this point, quarantining at home is causing more damage than good,” Mitchell said. “It’s not going to stop the virus. It is certainly going to cause massive depression, it’s going to cause massive financial ruin and we’re not all billionaires like our fearless leader. So we need to get back to work.”

Pritzker said he respects freedom of speech and wants to open the state back up, but can’t do it all at once.

“But I also want to say I’m not going to do it until we know people are safe and it isn’t going to be because some protester has a sign that says, you know, ‘liberate Illinois,” Pritzker said.

He said he’s looking at regional data to consider reopening the state.

Modified orders he issued Thursday allow some nonessential businesses to do curbside and online sales, among other changes.

At the protest in Springfield people were carrying signs that said “I am Darren Bailey,” the state lawmaker who won an early round of a legal challenge over the stay-at-home order.

Bailey, R-Xenia, was at the protest and said the Illinois Attorney General claimed a filing error in the temporary restraining order he won against the governor’s stay-at-home order.

“So we’re throwing that out and then that’s going to allow the suit to continue to move and we will prove beyond constitutionality of this failed governor of ours,” Bailey said.

His lawsuit said the governor exceeded his authority by issuing rolling emergency orders keeping the state shut down for more than 30 days.

Bailey said he will take the case all the way to the state Supreme Court. Another pending case against the order from state Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, is expected to be heard in Winnebago County on Monday. Pritzker calls the challenges “grandstanding.”

A church in Lena sued the governor this week fearing arrest if they hold service. Pritzker’s modified orders that started Friday included provision allowing for church services.

“We wanted to make it more explicit that you can worship in a group of ten or less just as you could, as long as you’re social-distancing, to be clear,” Pritzker said Friday.

Protesting outside the capitol in Springfield on Friday, Destiny Church Pastor Eric Hanson said the modified order, which also encourages drive-up religious services, isn’t enough.

“You know in the Bible they were called kings. Today, they’re called governors. And I don’t appreciate someone stepping on my constitutional rights. which I believe were to peaceably assemble like today,” Hansen said.

Across the street in Springfield, some counter-demonstrators gathered on Friday. Springfield resident Shauna Biggs said she has medically vulnerable people in her family and such protests scare her.

“236,000 people have died worldwide,” Biggs said. “It’s not a little thing. And it’s such an unknown thing.”

She called the protesters selfish.

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