Written by Lucia Starbuck and Eric Marks | photos by Eric Marks
Hundreds of Nevadans crowded in front of the Nevada State Capitol Building in Carson City protesting to reopen Nevadan businesses, like restaurants, small businesses, churches, hair salons and golf courses. Many also signed a petition to recall Governor Steve Sisolak, who on March 17, ordered non-essential businesses to close in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Many were sporting Make America Great Again apparel and waving President Donald Trump flags, and there was a relentless ring of cars blaring their horns and waving American flags in support.
No one seemed to fear getting exposed to virus. Many were standing less than six feet apart and many of those were not wearing a face covering, despite health guidelines urging to do so.
The rally took place during a time when reported Coronavirus outbreaks are seeing dramatic growth across the country.
Sisolak recently stated that he doesn’t have a definitive date for when businesses in Nevada can expect to open up again. He said he’s relying expertise from medical advisors and analyzing the how many hospital beds are occupied, and the average number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the state.
Is Sisolak being unconstitutional?
Many protestors signed a petition to recall the governor, noting that they supported this initiative before the pandemic. There were several signs with Sisolak’s face with devilish horns. Many allege that Sisolak’s recent orders aren’t constitutional.
Pauline Jones is the owner of a small business, Friendly Computers, which services the local community in Reno. She said she hasn’t laid anyone off but she’s standing up for people who aren’t able to work.
“I feel like the people that are at a higher risk, they should be the ones that are in the quarantine and the people that are healthy should be allowed to go out and work. I think it’s up to everybody because we the people are the ones that have the say. I feel like the government right now, they are the ones that are trying to push their agendas on us,” she said.
More than 300,000 Nevadans have filed for unemployment after Sisolak’s order to close non-essential businesses. Jones held a clipboard for people to sign a petition to recall Sisolak.
“He is going against the federal government for one thing, they have already suggested that the different states and the governors start reopening the states and he’s still not willing to open anything here,” Jones said.
Other protestors like Colin Thomson went as far as calling Sisolak tyrannical. Thomson hoisted a ‘Trump 2020’ flag on his shoulder and had on a red, white and blue jersey that said, ‘Trump 45’ on the back.
“It’s like the common flu, you know, if you get it, you’re going to get it, take your precautions, be smart, but this ain’t going to solve the problem, blocking everyone down. You’re just prolonging it. It’s not going anywhere, it’ll come back later, maybe next year. Who knows?” he stated.
Thomson said in the meantime he believes Sisolak is stripping his freedom of speech, travel and the right to bear arms. Several protestors exercised that right, with handguns clipped to their belts.
“He’s going above and beyond, you know, he’s basically trampling on our constitution and we’re not going to do it. We’re not going to have it. You can’t, you don’t supersede the constitution as a governor of a state,” Thomson said.
According to Nevada law, if Nevada is under a state of emergency, Sisolak can execute orders like non-essential business closures.
“The Governor is responsible for carrying out the provisions of this chapter, and in the event of an emergency or disaster beyond local control, may assume direct operational control over all or any part of the functions of emergency management within this State,” according to NRS 414.060.
Furthermore: “The Governor may: Make, amend and rescind the necessary orders and regulations.”
Protesting for a concrete plan
Nevada State Assembly Member Jim Wheeler argued that there are gray areas in Nevada law that don’t quite define what should be allowed open or not.
“In some of the localities, like Douglas County here in Carson City, Wells, West Wendover etc., why aren’t we opening up restaurants, for instance, when they include social distancing in their plan, say: keep six feet between tables etc.” he said. “So they are only half capacity, but that’s all right. I’m sure they’d be okay with that.
“Why are churches closed for drive up services when you’re staying in your car? That doesn’t make much sense to me. Why are lakes closed for fishing? Why are golf courses closed when it’s one of the most solo things you can do is walk a golf course? Some of these don’t make sense. We need some information. [Sisolak] says that he’s getting professional opinions, we’d like to see those too,” Wheeler added.
Wheeler said he doesn’t support or oppose recalling Sisolak, instead he just wants the governor to release a plan of when businesses can expect to open up.
“We just want information. That’s all these people want. Tell us what’s going on. Tell us how we can get back to work. These people want to work. The unemployment rate next month will be higher than the great depression ever was. How many people is that going to kill?” Wheeler asked. “So let’s look at things and let’s have a discussion. This is not a Democrat thing, it is not a Republican thing, not a Libertarian thing, this is a Nevada thing. So let’s all get together as Nevadans and make it work.”
Sisolak’s office did not respond to a request for comment from This Is Reno.
Gardnerville resident Starla Doughty is also pleading for the governor to announce a timeline of when Nevada will reopen. She’s a virtual assistant for weddings so she’s always been able to work from home. However, she worries about her daughter who lost her restaurant job and worries that some Gardnerville businesses might close indefinitely. She argued that rural Nevadan counties should be the first to open.
“We need to get Nevada open, especially in the rural counties where we have no pandemic. So why not open at least those and get people back to work, get the economy back going again,” Doughty said.
Doughty said she misses daily activities as well. She alleged that Sisolak took away her rights, and wants to know when she will be able to enjoy them again.
“The right to congregate, the right to go to church, the right to get in my car and drive to the golf course or a park. I can’t even go visit my grandchildren or anything. We’re FaceTiming now to see the grandchildren but it still stings. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not going to be dumb about it. If I felt like I was at risk, I would not be out and about. We’re not being unsensible. Let’s just have a plan,” Doughty said.
Democratic governors facing backlash
This protest was modeled directly after the “Operation Gridlock” protest that took place in Michigan several days prior on April 15. The Michigan protests resulted in miles of individuals blocking Michigan streets in protest over Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home order.
Protesters chanted “lock her up” and waved Trump banners. In that instance, traffic and armed conservative protestors blocked roadways to such an extent that it created difficulty for emergency responders and workers to effectively operate.
The Northern Nevada protest calls itself Operation Nevada. The website is riddled with grammatical errors and antagonistic imagery, including Sisolak performing a manipulated photo of a “Sieg Heil.”
It also features a link to a social media Facebook page. The link, which is advertised as “connect with us” redirects to a Recall Governor Sisolak page.
The page describes itself as “a group for Nevadans to come together and Recall a Governor who has in less than a month in office already gone after Nevadan’s second amendment rights. This group will keep everyone updated on the Governor and his shady deals.”