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‘No more mandates!’ Reopen rally draws dozens to governor’s mansion in Annapolis

Protesters march around State Circle. Return2Learn Maryland Schools, Reopen Howard County and 3 other groups hosted a rally, at the Maryland State House, to protest continued closure of schools, small business, churches, sports, etc. under coronavirus restrictions.
Protesters march around State Circle. Return2Learn Maryland Schools, Reopen Howard County and 3 other groups hosted a rally, at the Maryland State House, to protest continued closure of schools, small business, churches, sports, etc. under coronavirus restrictions. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

Dozens of Marylanders with megaphones and handmade signs descended upon the State House Friday, as the sun set on another day under coronavirus restrictions and mask mandates.

The protesters, many of them without masks, called on Gov. Larry Hogan to fully reopen the state, chanting “No more mandates.”

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They want schools to be open for in-person education. They want restaurants to be able to serve at full capacity. And they want to be able to decide what precautions if any, they take to protect themselves and their families from the virus.

“People are smart enough to figure out whether to take their own risks, and they should be allowed that freedom,” said Lynda Kouroupis of Elliott City.

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Kouroupis said she came down to Annapolis to support small businesses struggling under virus-related mandates. Neither she nor her husband wore masks, which are required in businesses under rules established by the county health department.

“It’s up to me to figure out my own hygiene and immune system,” she said. “I don’t see other people as vectors for the disease.”

They were protesting hours after Hogan issued an order allowing restaurants to offer expanded indoor dining starting Monday if local governments approve. Anne Arundel County quickly announced it would not follow the reopening.

Hogan announced his decision to increase capacity limits to 75% after visiting bars and restaurants in downtown Annapolis, where many have expanded onto the sidewalks and streets to accommodate diners while their indoor operations are limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state calculates its positivity rate for the past week as 3.21%, while Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center, which uses a different calculation, puts the state above 6%. The World Health Organization recommends governments see two weeks of positivity less than 5% before expanding allowed activities.

Maryland is in phase three of the reopening plan, although Anne Arundel County lags behind. Public schools in the county are still in remote learning, with a plan to return some students to classrooms.

Friday, County Executive Steuart Pittman relaxed restrictions on movie theaters, music venues and outdoor performance centers.

Davidsonville resident Cynthia Morgan said she plans to take her seventh-grade daughter out of school to homeschool her because of the deficits in the online learning program.

“Our children are not learning through virtual learning,” she said. “They need interaction with each other. They need to be out playing with each other.”

Shawn Porter stood with a large, obscene sign facing the governor’s house, smoking a Padrón cigar. He came to Annapolis from Frederick County to express his frustration with the governor.

"I really don’t like this guy. He’s ruined the lives of a lot of people including everyone I know. All my friends are out of work, he said. “I want nothing to do with him. I regret voting for him twice.”

Del. Dan Cox, R-Frederick, attended the rally to call for the reopening of schools, and on behalf of his constituents who are struggling during the pandemic.

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Specifically, he said he’s worried about the lack of in-person education and access to sports for students.

Robin Ficker, a perennial political candidate who said he is running for governor as a Republican, said the virus-related restrictions are putting undue stress on working families. Working parents should have the option of whether to send their children in for face-to-face instruction, he said.

He’s concerned for parents who come home from work at night and have to navigate multiple different curricula for their kids.

“The elected leaders are out of touch,” Ficker said. “This is doing a great deal of harm to our state.”

While some marched around State Circle, others huddled around plastic bags full of tiny foam footballs. They wrote pleas to the governor in a metallic-colored marker.

Some shouted “Larry, are you home? Come out, come out wherever you are.”

While others poked megaphones through the Governor’s Mansion fence to shout and ring cowbells.

As it got dark, demonstrators stopped marching around downtown and congregated in the blue glow of police cars in front of the governor’s house.

Several chants began and ended, including ones that said “Not my governor,” and “No more mandates.”

Eastport resident Kecia Pettey led the crowd in a brief refrain of “Let us dance.”

She said she’s visited restaurants recently where there is good music, but she’s not been able to dance freely.

As the crowd dwindled and protesters idled, she shouted, “we’re going to the Irish pub.”

Some groaned about the mask mandate but said they’d go to support the local business.

About a dozen with signs followed her.

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