Protests To 'Reopen Maryland' This Weekend Are Out Of Step With Majority View
Protestors plan to rally on Saturday in an effort to convince Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to lift the state of emergency and allow businesses to reopen. It mirrors other such protests in states across the country where governors are keeping businesses closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
But new polling out this week shows that the majority of Marylanders don’t share the group’s view.
The protestors plan to caravan from Frederick to Salisbury, with a stop on Kent Island. The event is organized by Reopen Maryland, a group that describes itself as grassroots and has just over 23,000 members on Facebook.
“We’re demanding that the shutdown ends in Maryland because of the devastation that it's causing to families and businesses across our state,” said Evie Harris, one of the group’s organizers.
She said it’s in the best interest of business owners to keep their customers and workers safe, so the government should trust businesses to reopen safely, following safety guidelines.
“If they have to put down markings, if they have to have extra hand sanitizer, whatever it may be, those safety measures, then the business owners want their businesses to succeed,” Harris said.
Harris is also a registered nurse in the Baltimore area, a perspective that helps shape her belief that Hogan needs to lift the state of emergency immediately.
“People without jobs tend to — they're sicker. They don't go to the hospital, or they don't have access to medical services compared to some other groups,” Harris said. “These are some of the things that as a nurse, that affords me the opportunity to think through more.”
But a national poll released Thursday shows that Harris and Reopen Maryland are in the minority.
The poll, conducted by experts at Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers universities, interviewed people around the country. Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, where she runs the Goucher Poll, analyzed what it says about Maryland residents.
“There is really little appetite among Marylanders to reopen the country right away,” Kromer said. “This idea of immediately opening the country, only around 6% of Marylanders would like to see that.”
By comparison, more than a third of the Maryland residents polled says business activity should resume after more than eight weeks.
The poll shows that Marylanders want the economy reopened, Kromer said, but they want to be cautious about timing.
“Marylanders are really concerned about two things,” Kromer said. “Family members getting the coronavirus — nearly 84% said they're somewhat or very concerned about that — or getting the coronavirus themselves, and 72% said they were somewhat or very concerned about getting the Coronavirus themselves.”
The vast majority of Marylanders — 81% — says the state government is reacting appropriately to the pandemic. Kromer said that’s likely in part a result of Hogan’s consistently high approval ratings before the pandemic began.
“Gaining, sort of, trust of a constituency, trust of statewide voters and statewide residents, I think, is really important, and it becomes especially important in a time of a crisis where Marylanders have to follow the directives for the public policies to work,” she said.
In a statement about this weekend’s protest, Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci pointed to the plan the governor outlined last week to restart the economy in phases.
He issued a plea to the elected officials involved, including Republican state delegates Dan Cox and Warren Miller and Congressman Andy Harris, who are slated to speak.
“Beginning the recovery, of course, depends in part on Marylanders continuing to stay home and practice physical distancing,” Ricci wrote. “So my personal plea is that, as frustrated as they are, the elected officials involved will help us ensure that any demonstrations are conducted safely and without endangering the lives of others."
Evie Harris said she and the event’s other organizers are encouraging protesters to stay in their cars. If they leave their cars to go into a retail or food establishment, they should wear masks — which is the law, under one of the executive orders Hogan signed in April.