Reopen Howard County, a 700-person Facebook group, is set to host its first rally Tuesday to push the county to allow small businesses and religious institutions to reopen.
Protestors plan to meet at 5 p.m at the Howard County Court House in Ellicott City to hear speakers advocate for County Executive Calvin Ball to loosen restrictions. After the remarks the group plans to walk to the bottom of the Main Street hill in Ellicott City, urging attendees to patron local businesses.
“All we’re trying to do is get our message out and help the business owners who want to reopen,” said Chris Oxenham, one of the group’s founders. “Our group as a whole felt this was the most appropriate place to stage this rally.”
Last week Ball announced Howard County would not follow Gov. Larry Hogan’s framework to reopen, citing in part the “proximity to counties with much higher case rates.” Ball did not specify a timeline for loosening restrictions.
Ball did, however, announce the six data markers the county would consider when deciding to reopen the economy: the number of confirmed cases, the number of new hospitalizations, the number of patients admitted at Howard County General Hospital’s ICU, the number of tests conducted, the amount of available personal protective equipment and available surge capacity at Howard General.
Ball will not attend Tuesday’s rally, according to Scott Peterson, spokesman for Ball.
“We are aware of this scheduled rally and support the rights of any resident to protest,” Peterson said. “We hope that the organizers of this protest will keep their supporters safe and physically distanced from each other. We also encourage the use of facemasks per CDC and State of Maryland guidance.”
The Reopen Howard rally is scheduled a few days after as similar group, ReOpen Baltimore County, is set to protest in Towson and more than a week after hundreds gathered in Annapolis to protest Hogan’s lockdown orders.
Oxenham, owner of a Howard County financial services company, said the group has no intention of making the rally political. Anyone with political signs or apparel will be asked to leave, according to Oxenham.
“Our group felt in particular that small business owners are not getting their voices heard,” Oxenham said. “There just doesn’t seem to be anyone standing up for those voices.”