Protest planned Sunday in Olympia as pushback grows against stay-at-home orders

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Protesters will convene at the state Capitol Sunday afternoon to voice their growing opposition to Gov. Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.

The event, called "Hazardous Liberty," is billed as a way for people to protest what organizers call an unconstitutional order.

Tyler Miller, the main event organizer, said his concerns began when the first ban on large gatherings went into effect. The protest is in violation of the order that's in place through at least May 4.

"There definitely wasn’t a rush to do this," Miller told Q13 News. "It was a very long progression trying to interact with the governor, trying to get his attention, trying to get him to revise it. Those were either ignored, or not seen, or rebuffed, and where we’re at now is the state is picking and choosing winners and losers. Some businesses are deemed essential, others are not."

Miller said he understands the public health crisis the state is facing, and the protest is not trying to minimize that, he said.

"I totally understand the situation that we’re in … but it’s setting the precedents that the state has the authority to, in fact, do that at any given time," Miller said. "We’re not saying people shouldn’t follow the CDC recommendations as much as practical ... the single position we’re taking is that the government does not have the authority (to mandate it)."

Asked whether organizers will be enforcing social distancing guidelines (6 feet apart), Miller said he "won't be going around with a yard stick," but said social distancing is encouraged. He also said people at a higher risk for Covid-19 complications and people who are sick should consider staying home.

Q13 News asked Inslee about the protest during his Thursday afternoon coronavirus press briefing. Here's what he had to say:

"If 1,000 people showed up this weekend … there would be 6,999,000 Washingtonians who care enough about their families to pitch in a little bit to try to prevent our loved ones from dying, and to those 6,999,000 Washingtonians, I say thank you, we commend you," Inslee said. 

In places like Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, small-government groups, supporters of President Trump, anti-vaccine advocates, gun rights backers and supporters of conservative causes have united behind a deep suspicion of efforts to shut down daily life to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As their frustration with life under lockdown grows, they’ve started to openly defy the social distancing rules in an effort to put pressure on governors to ease them.

Some of the protests have been small events, promoted via Facebook groups that have popped up in recent days and whose organizers are sometimes difficult to identify. Others are backed by groups funded by prominent Republican donors, some with ties to Trump. The largest so far, a rally of thousands that jammed the streets of Lansing, Michigan, on Wednesday, looked much like one of the president’s rallies — complete with MAGA hats or Trump flags — or one of the tea party rallies from a decade ago.

The signs of frustration come as Trump has pushed for easing stay-at-home orders and tried to look ahead to restarting the economy. He unveiled a framework for governors to follow on Thursday, but acknowledged the governors will have the final say on when their state is ready. Health experts have warned that lifting restrictions too quickly could result in a surge of new cases of the virus.

But the president and some of his supporters are impatient. Thousands of people in their cars packed the streets of Lansing to protest Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order and other restrictions. Outside the Capitol, some chanted “Lock her up,” a throwback to Trump’s calls during the 2016 election about his rival Hillary Clinton. One woman held a sign reading “Heil Witmer.”

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” Trump said in a tweet-storm in which he also lashed out at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for criticizing the federal response. Cuomo “should spend more time `doing’ and less time `complaining,’” he said, adding: ”Less talk and more action!”