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Protesters demand Gov. Pritzker reopen Illinois

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Springfield, IL - A crowd of about 150 people chanted "Freedom Over Fear" and "Reopen Illinois" outside the Illinois Capitol Saturday. The Reopen Illinois rally was organized on Facebook by Orphans of the American Dream. Participants want their voices heard as Governor JB Pritzker extends the stay-at-home order on May 1. Pritzker announced changes coming to his executive order during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"We've honestly been watching the press conferences from President Trump and Governor JB Pritzker and just been getting more and more infuriated every time we watch them," said Matthew Walder who organized the rally. Walder was happy with the turnout, despite the rain. "I can't even imagine if it was nice out, how many people would be here." A similar protest took place at the Capitol on April 19 as part of the national Operation Gridlock.

"Our economy is about to crash"

Walder hosts a podcast for Orphans of the American Dream, but he says this isn't a partisan issue. "I think this is medical tyranny and our economy is about to crash, let's be frank. That's what we're worried about. There are businesses that are probably closed off now that probably won't open again, and that's a travesty," Walder said.

Many individuals at the rally held American flags or signs with messages of "Illinois is Lying," "Never Before Never Again," and "Open Illinois Now." Walder says most of the problems are in Chicago and the collar counties. "I think regionalization county by county is the way to go." He says residents have the common sense to take care of themselves and "don't need the government to tell us when and where to go to the bathroom."

"Our problems were pre-COVID"

David Paul Blumenshine says he joined the rally to show the importance of reopening the state. He is also supporting his friend Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) who is suing Pritzker for "improper use of emergency powers." Blumenshine says Pritzker believes he is above the Constitution. "We haven't had a ruling over whether he can truly have the ability to just order these 30 day extensions. Hopefully, a judge will decide if he can or if he can't. I don't know."

The Republican from Bloomington also voiced concern about the stay-at-home order's impact on Illinois' economy. Blumenshine has lost two primary election campaigns against Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington). "Our problems were pre-COVID. We had no plan before COVID to bail our state out. We have no plans during COVID, and we sure don't have a plan right now from the Governor as we roll out of COVID," Blumenshine exclaimed. He believes lawmakers should return to the Statehouse to pass an emergency spending plan.

Lack of facial coverings

"You guys are bold. You're patriots. Thanks for being here today," Blumenshine said over a megaphone. The majority of rally participants weren't wearing facial coverings and organizers say they won't adhere to Pritzker's requirement starting May 1.

"They have no authority to tell us we have to wear a mask. I respect their opinion, but it's just that. It's an opinion," Walder said. "They don't have the Constitutional authority to mandate that we wear those." Blumenshine says lawmakers should step up if they want people to wear facial coverings. "If they want to step into that building and mandate that Illinoisans wear face coverings, have at it. But legislate it. Let's see where that gets you."

Walder says everyone should have the right to take the risk without covering up. "It's ultimately our choice whether we want to live in fear and stay inside, or want to go about our lives." Two Reopen Illinois rallies are planned for May 1 with a large crowd expected outside the Thompson Center in Chicago and Capitol building in Springfield. Organizers expect more than 1,000 people to attend both rallies.

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Mike Miletich

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