(May 4, 2020) Thousands of Marylanders protested in their state’s capital city Saturday, May Day, as a lawsuit was filed against the governor over the state’s forced lockdown that began in March. Lockdown protests have now occurred in at least 25 states, including California, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
As Marylanders drove in a long protest line meant to slow traffic in Annapolis, 17 people – including state delegates, pastors, and business owners – filed a lawsuit against Governor Larry Hogan, seeking to end the corona virus restrictions.
“We are ALL Essential. . . Our Lives, Our Decision”
Several protesters wore yellow shirts with red print emblazoned on their backs that read: “We are ALL Essential. Trust Each Other. Our Lives, Our Decision.”
Many small business owners held up signs along the protest drive that read “We’re all essential” and “I want to save my business. I need to work to live.”
The lawsuit argues that Governor Hogan’s orders — which have banned large gatherings and closed most businesses — violate constitutional and federal laws protecting commerce, freedom of assembly, the right to protest, and the right to practice one’s religion.
The 56-page lawsuit reflects the positions of several groups protesting nationwide which say that state governors have gone too far in their lockdown choices to contain the coronavirus. (Though some states, such as Iowa, have never been locked down.) The plaintiffs’ complaint references a recent memo by U.S. Attorney General William Barr which calls for federal prosecutors to be on the lookout for states that infringe on the rights of their citizens.
First Amendment Violations of Speech, Religion
The Maryland lawsuit complaint echoes an argument growing across the country that the forced shutdown of businesses and churches constitutes a violation of first amendment protections of speech and religion.
More and more people across the nation are beginning to awaken from the Corona lockdown nightmare to ask questions about who gets to decide what businesses are essential — and hence which ones will, in many cases, live or die – and which are not “essential.” The word used in legalese risks sending the national discourse down a very slippery slope that threatens to crush civil liberties and remove the kind of personal freedoms many Americans had come to feel were a birthright before the lockdowns. It is already a foregone conclusion that thousands of American restaurants and other businesses have already been forced to close forever due to the ongoing lockdowns.
What makes a Business or Church Essential? Who Decides?
The Maryland lawsuit states:
“Under the Governor’s Executive Orders, Lowes and Walmart are permitted to have hundreds of cars and people because the Governor chose them to be ‘essential businesses.’ However, under the same orders, a church may not have anyone in its buildings with limited exceptions for ‘virtual’ services, and businesses that operate for camping or recreation or other provisions such as hair salons and a myriad of other businesses, are prohibited from even being open.”
Republican Delegates Dan Cox, Warren Miller, and Neil Parrott argue that the restrictions against travel violate their duties to oversee Governor Hogan and the state government.
Governor Hogan said in a statement that he has not reviewed the lawsuit, and he declined to comment through his spokesman, Mike Ricci. The latter, however, did not decline the chance to speak, framing the lawsuit as some ongoing salvo in a two-party squabble, rather than addressing the larger argument that the Maryland suit and nationwide protests are not political in nature, but rather about much larger issues, specifically the civil and constitutional rights of all people, regardless of party affiliation.
Mr. Ricci said of the lawsuit: “We fully respect Delegate Cox’s right to protest, but that doesn’t entitle him to make false and baseless claims. Also, I thought Republicans were the ones who didn’t like frivolous lawsuits.”
The plaintiffs also asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to halt enforcement of the executive orders.
The plaintiffs include two military veterans who refuse to wear face coverings because it reminds them of battlefields in Iraq.
Several pastor plaintiffs claim their churches can’t hold online or outdoor drive-in worship services because they lack the equipment to do so.
The group of plaintiffs also includes Reopen Maryland LLC, a group that has so far organized two demonstrations against the executive orders. The lawsuit claims the group is suffering “ongoing violations of constitutional rights.”
Some Legal “’Experts” back Hogan
Some legal experts have said that Hogan is within his authority outlined in state law, so long as his actions are not arbitrary and capricious. The Public Safety Article in the Maryland Code grants a governor broad authority in states of emergency and catastrophic public health events.
Lawsuit: Shutdown violates Constitutional Rights
The lawsuit argues that Hogan’s actions go beyond the scope of his authorities in the Maryland Code, which “do not include any powers to require the population to stay-at-home, wear face masks, refrain from assembling in church, refrain from doing business or participating in commerce.” It also argues that Hogan’s actions amount to violations of Constitutional rights.
* Marylanders Protest Covid Lockdown