Photos by Ty O’Neill
Another wave of protesters took to the streets yesterday rallying to reopen Nevada’s economy. Following similar protests nationally and in the state, including in Carson City and Las Vegas, around a hundred protestors gathered at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.
Conservative radio talk show host Monica Jaye rallied the group before they started their hour-long descent through downtown Reno. Many drove the route in support of the rally.
“We have the right, and the liberties, and the freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Jaye said. “I don’t know about you but working makes me happy. Being with my friends and family makes me happy. Going to church makes me happy.
“Governor Sisolak is playing games with your freedom all in the sense of safety. Those who give up liberty for safety should not be allowed either liberty or safety because you’re giving up your rights.”
Many demonstrators waved American flags and wore Make America Great Again apparel, while others were there just to advocate for opening businesses. The protestors held signs and walked a little less than 3 miles through downtown Reno. Others drove in their cars and honked. This crowd was a little less rowdy than the hundreds of protestors that gathered in Carson City a week ago.
Protestors also signed a petition to recall Gov. Steve Sisolak, who has stated he needs to see a decrease in positive COVID-19 tests and expanded testing before reopening Nevada. He also hasn’t provided a date for when businesses can expect to reopen but said Nevada is following White House plans.
“I would strongly, strongly encourage the protesters to please follow that direction from the governor: maintain your social distancing,” said Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick. “But I also value all of their lives and I’m seeing in some of the other protests that I’ve seen on TV where people were right next to each other and creating conditions in which you could have enhanced spread of disease.”
In other cities, masked healthcare workers have started counter protests to reopen rallies. In Reno, the protestors were greeted with middle fingers from a few young anti-protestors from their balconies located near the University of Nevada, Reno.
Some protesters were wary of the press and did not want to give their name, or where they work. Some abruptly stopped interviews. Other marchers shouted at broadcast journalists. One marcher handed This Is Reno reporters a piece of paper with the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
Majority of protesters want to see Sisolak out
“People are out here because they’re unemployed. People are out here because their businesses are failing,” Jaye said. “People are out here because they wanted Sisolak recalled at the very point he was elected because he already started violating your rights and going against the United States constitution and the Nevada constitution.”
One protestor, Amber Hart, stuck out from the marchers. She was dressed in blue and held a sign reading “Democrats for freedom.”
“I know that there are other people who are Democrats and feel the same way,” Hart said.
Hart said she’s a stay-at-home mom and hasn’t been financially impacted but she said she has friends who have been affected and that’s why she’s marching.
“It feels like this really is a bipartisan issue that we should all care about the economy. Just because I care about the economy doesn’t mean I don’t care about saving other people’s lives,” she said. “I think that’s where Democrats are really losing, when they have the hate messages out there. I think it is important that we have our civil liberties and we can march because we feel passionate about something. This is America.”
While most of the protestors supported recalling Sisolak even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Hart voted for him in 2018.
“I haven’t made a very large, I guess, decision on whether or not I still like him as our governor. If he doesn’t open up Nevada soon, I’ll be signing that petition next week,” Hart said.
A fight for people who are able to work
Most of the protestors argued that people who are able to work should be able to. That’s how Rose Matthews feels. She’s the co-owner of a small business in Reno called Pathway to Serenity, which provides massage therapy. It opened three years ago.
“It’s a huge financial impact for us, and we’re not able to keep our doors open, and we’re questioning our livelihoods in general,” Matthews said, “That’s no income for two months. So it’s very hard for us.”
Matthews said Pathway to Serenity closed its doors on March 18. All four staff members haven’t been able to work or get paid since.
“There’s no reason why my business can’t be open at this point. There’s no more than 10 people in our building at a time. There’s no more than three people interacting at one point and we’re very clean, massage board regulates us very heavily,” Matthews said.
Another protestor in the crowd was Golden Valley resident Leslee Combs. She said her husband lost his casino job. Combs said she works for an educational institution, she didn’t want to say where, and has been able to work from home.
“We have enough to pay the mortgage for two months. With me working, at least I have a paycheck. So bills are going to get paid. Other than that, there’s a lot more people out there that are financially hurt way worse than we are,” Combs said.
In states that have businesses reopening early, if individuals decide to stay home over concerns about being exposed to COVID-19, they may not be eligible for unemployment benefits from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The following is a statement from the CARES Act website:
“Voluntarily deciding to quit your job out of a general concern about exposure to COVID-19 does not make you eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. If you believe your employer’s response to the possible spread of COVID-19 creates a serious safety hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
Sisolak said, however, at his press conference on April 21 that Nevada’s OSHA resources are stretched thin. There has been little to no discussion on providing essential workers hazard pay.