All 50 states have now begun to reopen after months of coronavirus closures and stay-at-home orders, but even as restrictions are being lifted, some in the reopen movement are ramping up their rhetoric and hurting their cause in the process.
Much like the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement that’s swept across the country over the past two years, the reopen movement is generally hyperlocal in its focus, and the movement hasn’t spawned national leadership, either organizationally or individually. There is no national spokesperson for the reopen side of the debate, and there’s no real unified messaging either. As the country begins to reopen, you’d think local reopen groups would be declaring at least a partial success, or point out that the states are moving in the right direction. Instead, though, some local activists seem determined to make their cause as fringe-y as possible.
In North Carolina, for instance, #ReopenNC activist Adam Smith, posted a Facebook Live video over the weekend in which he talked about being willing to kill people to further the cause.
“Are we willing to kill people? Are we willing to lay our lives down? We have to say yes,” Adam Smith said in a Facebook Live video posted on Friday.
Later in the 17-minute video, he said, “If you bring force, we’re gonna bring force. If you bring guns, we’re gonna bring guns. If you’re armed with this, we’re gonna be armed with this.”
Keep in mind, North Carolina actually relaxed more of the state’s restrictions over the Memorial Day weekend. The #ReopenNC group, which has about 78,000 members on Facebook, could have used that act to point out that lockdowns can’t last forever and to push the state for an expedited reopening that’s safe and responsible. Instead, Smith’s wife Ashley, one of the cofounders of the group, ended up defending her husband’s statement.
While calling anyone who took issue with her husband’s comments “disgraceful,” Ashley Smith said Sunday that he “maybe” could have chosen his words better.
“Could he have said it better?” Ashley Smith said on Facebook. “Maybe, but that’s not for anyone to decide how a free person should speak their mind. Our founding fathers would not be pleased that we gave up so much for so little. Look how hard we are having to fight to get our freedom back!”
It’s not up to any of us to decide how a free person should speak their mind, but we’re all allowed to speak our mind in return. Having an opinion doesn’t equate to censorship, and believing that a comment is counterproductive or stupid doesn’t violate anyone’s First Amendment rights.
Would the Founding Fathers be upset with us for not rising up and fighting back against lockdown orders? Many of them didn’t look too fondly on Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts after the War of Independence, and of course George Washington himself called out the military to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. The Founders believed in individual liberty, but they also believed in the rule of law, and given the fact that the courts are still open and Election Day is coming up this November, I can’t help but believe that if the Founders were alive today, most of them would be running for office, drumming up support for pro-freedom candidates, and suing the pants off of governors that have overstepped their authority with their shutdown orders.
As for the fight to get freedom back in North Carolina, there are currently multiple lawsuits over Gov. Rory Cooper’s shutdown orders and the local implementation of his coronavirus regulations. A state representative has filed suit seeking to reopen all businesses in the state, churches have sued, and so have hair salon owners. Groups like the Second Amendment Foundation have also brought lawsuits against sheriffs in the state who have suspended the processing of concealed carry and pistol purchase permit applications.
That’s one way to fight back against Gov. Cooper’s orders. Another way is non-violent civil disobedience. On Monday, about 50 people from #ReopenNC gathered in Asheville, North Carolina for a Memorial Day rally, and several small business owners spoke movingly about the hardships they’re facing under the governor’s restrictions.
“I work at Rise ’n Shine cafe,” said Katie Feathers who also went to the podium. Feathers faces a misdemeanor, cited last week by Asheville police for serving customers indoors, violating the governor’s orders at that time.
Her boss, Katie Grace, also spoke. Grace said she was unsure why Feathers was cited since it’s her restaurant. She said Asheville police have cited her with additional misdemeanors retroactive for the days the restaurant was serving customers during Phase I.
Call me crazy, but I think “The governor is killing our small business” is a much more effective message than “I’m prepared to kill people in order to reopen,” and non-violent civil disobedience is a much more effective tactic than threatening to start a civil war. I believe that we have the right to keep and bear arms as a check on tyranny, but I also believe that is the last resort of a free people, and both the ballot box and jury box remain viable channels to oppose unconstitutional actions taken by politicians in the name of public safety.
Breweries and restaurants were crowded in Charlotte over Memorial Day weekend, and thousands of people returned to the state’s beaches to soak in the sun. I believe that most people in North Carolina want to see their lives get back to some sense of normalcy, and things are moving in that direction, albeit not as fast as the reopen movement would like. If #ReopenNC wants to truly grow its membership beyond Facebook, its leaders should be promoting that return to normalcy, praising peaceful acts of civil disobedience, encouraging lawmakers to step up and defend small businesses, and using litigation to push back against any unconstitutional orders by the governor. That’s the way to build a movement, as opposed to dooming it to irrelevance and the political fringe.