Saturday, April 25, 2020

Wisconsin stay-at-home order protesters vow to rally without permit

From the The pandemic hits home: Keep up with the latest local news on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak series
SCOTT BAUER Associated Press  Apr 23, 2020

A woman holds a sign as she attends a rally outside the Missouri Capitol to protests stay-at-home orders put into place due to the COVID-19 outbreak on Tuesday. A similar rally is being organized for Madison's Capitol on Friday, even though the state has denied a permit.

Organizers of a rally against Wisconsin's stay-at-home order say they are proceeding with the event on Friday, even though their permit to hold it on the grounds of the Capitol was denied.
The planned rally is the latest in a string of events in Wisconsin and across the country, organized and promoted by opponents of orders designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Friday's rally has the potential to be the largest to date in Wisconsin, with more than 3,300 people as of Wednesday saying on Facebook that they are going and 12,000 interested.
Organizer Madison Elmer applied for a permit with the state Department of Administration on April 14. Elmer said Wednesday that she was notified this week that the permit was denied because the gathering would violate the order barring gatherings of any size.
The Capitol building is closed.

Elmer pledged to forge ahead with the rally, despite the possibility of being cited by law enforcement.

"I think our message is bigger than that to be worried about it," Elmer said. "I'm willing to risk citation for everybody else that's speaking to be able to be heard."

A spokeswoman for Capitol Police hasn't returned a message asking what type of enforcement there would be at the event. Madison Police Department spokesman Joel DeSpain said officers from his department would monitor it.

Gov. Tony Evers has said he respects the protesters’ free speech rights, but that he also hopes they maintain a safe distance from one another.

Organizers urged rally participants to be peaceful. But they are leaving it up to each participant to decide whether to follow social distancing guidelines that public health experts say are essential to stopping the spread of the virus.

"Everybody's responsible for their own health," Elmer said. "If they feel somebody else is making them uncomfortable they can move or stand by somebody else."

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