HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) — More than 100 gathered at the state Capitol on Friday to protest emergency stay-at-home orders aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.
The protest drew a heavy police presence and at least one person was arrested.
UPDATE: Police arrested three people and cited five others for violating the stay-at-home order, according to HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu.
Penalties could include a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
The protesters, some of whom weren’t wearing masks, say the orders go to far and are hurting working families.
At the rally, they were chanting and waving signs. One sign read, “Re-open Hawaii.” Another: “Live free or die.”
“I’m out here to protest and let the governor know that he needs to open everything back up,” said Rafael Soto, an Ewa Beach resident and pastor at a Baptist church in Hawaii Kai.
“We’re tired of him suppressing our freedoms. People need to get back to work. The churches need to open up. People are hurting, people are hungry. It’s ridiculous, open it back up, what’s the point?”
Another protester called the warning he got from police “fascist and Communist to the core.”
“We are exercising our rights as Americans and the mayor has the audacity to defy the rule of law he took an oath to defend and protect,” he said. “He’s a traitor and he needs to be prosecuted for violating his oath of office.”
One said that “extending the lockdown is worse than the virus itself.”
Similar protests have been popping up around the country amid fierce debate over whether stay-at-home rules are necessary. Public health officials say the lockdowns — while extreme — are the only way to keep people safe.
Under the state’s stay-at-home order, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Hawaii has slowed to a trickle. Statewide on Friday, just one new case was reported.
Hawaii also has the lowest coronavirus infection and fatality rates in the nation.
But the state’s shutdown has come at a hefty price. Unemployment in the state has hit an unprecedented 35%, and only select businesses considered “low risk” are allowed to operate.
Gov. David Ige instituted his statewide stay-at-home order March 25 and it’s been extended through May 31, though some businesses and activities — like exercising on the beach — are now allowed.
Ige has said that the state shutdown will be lifted in “phases,” but has added that residents need to adapt to a new normal — of wearing masks and social distancing — until a vaccine is developed.
Several nurses also turned out at the Capitol rally Friday to stage something of a counter-protest. Wearing masks and scrubs, one nurse held a sign that read, “We go to work for you. Stay home for us.”
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.