An afternoon rainstorm with a little hail didn’t keep more than 60 people from gathering in front of the Campbell County Courthouse for a “Reopen Wyoming” rally.
The peaceful protest featured people with signs displaying slogans like, “God gives, government takes,” “My Constitutional rights are essential” and “Staying Inside Is Not Safe.”
Gov. Mark Gordon has said his plan to reopen the economy will be slow and happen in phases, but many of Friday’s protestors advocated for everything to be open as soon as possible, emphasizing personal responsibility instead of strict government regulation.
“Open it up right away. Let the people be the judge,” said Doug Camblin. “If you’re not feeling well, stay home. Stay in your comfort zone. But don’t cause businesses to go out of business.”
His wife Charlene said that while it’s good Gordon is getting input from local county officials, she wants to know how Wyoming’s residents can be involved in the process.
“I think Wyoming people are very industrious, they’re strong, and I think they will come up with solutions that will be able to put people back to work and still keep people safe,” she said.
Mike Martinson said he misses “not being able to go out and enjoy life.” He believes the Trump administration has done fine in its response to the pandemic.
“The bad thing was when they tried to tell the healthy people to stay inside,” Martinson said.
He understands there are some people who have weakened or compromised immune systems.
“For the majority of the people who don’t have that, why are we the ones being punished for somebody else’s problems?” he asked, adding that the restrictions are a violation of people’s First, Second and Fifth Amendment rights.
State Rep. Scott Clem, R-Campbell County, gave a passionate speech, several times eliciting cheers from the crowd.
What the government has done during this pandemic is take away people’s constitutional rights without due process, Clem said.
“That’s tyranny. Absolute tyranny,” he said.
Clem said the government believes people aren’t capable of keeping themselves safe.
“They think they have to make decisions on your behalf, as if you’re not free Americans. It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s the China model. It’s draconian, it’s authoritarian, it’s weak, it’s petty and it’s unbecoming of any public servant in any public office.”
The governor “should roll back those restrictions immediately,” Clem said.
“Our First Amendment rights have been trampled on,” Doug Camblin said.
Rea Bronson said she thinks the president is doing the best he can.
“God bless Trump, God bless that he’s in there and Hillary’s not in there, because I can’t even imagine what would happen if Hillary was here right now. It’d be over,” she said.
She believes Gordon could be doing a better job during this pandemic. The restrictions that have closed nonessential public places have taken away what she loves most about the Cowboy State.
“He needs to open up and listen to the people,” Bronson said. “This is Wyoming. This isn’t the rest of the world. We come out here for freedom. That’s what we love about Wyoming.”
“I just feel there was a knee-jerk overreaction,” Doug Camblin said, adding that Gordon did the best he could with the information he had.
Charlene Camblin commended Gordon for not issuing a stay-at-home order like many other states have.
“Nobody has been through this thing before. So, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s important for everyone to keep that in mind,” she said.
Keith Schmeltz said he thinks Gordon is “doing a great job.”
A local mechanic, Schmeltz said he’s seen business slow down quite a bit because everyone is staying home, but believes Gordon is “on the right track.”
“He’s starting off slow, I understand this, everybody’s ready to get back work, I fully understand that,” Schmeltz said. “But it’s the slowness of controlling this pandemic.”
Martinson, who wishes everything would have been opened up two weeks ago, had a suggestion for Gordon.
“If you want to open up slowly, how about we open up the bars and restaurants that have outdoor seating?” he asked. “Wouldn’t that be better than telling people you’ve got to stay in your house?”
Bronson is ready for things to open up.
“I want our churches open. I don’t want people at the store yelling at me that I’m too close to them,” she said. “And I don’t want somebody to make me wear a mask if I don’t want to wear a mask.
“I want my freedom back.”
To anyone who might think the protesters are crazy, Clem said people “have an obligation to rise up and defend it in the face of government tyranny.”
“There are some things worth dying for,” he said. “Your freedom and your liberty is it.”