“Restricting access to our beaches is unconstitutional, and they should be ashamed of themselves and revisit the constitution.”, protesters say.
Rehoboth Beach (DE): As Delaware Governor John Carney eases restrictions and begins to reopen Delaware in small steps, a group of protesters said it’s not enough – and they want Delaware re-opened without restrictions immediately.
It happened Saturday afternoon at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand.
A Facebook group named “Re-Open Delaware” with over Two thousand followers assembled at the bandstand. The group is organized by Richard Bishop of lower Delaware. Bishop’s mission is to get Delaware reopened without restrictions and to hold Governor Carney accountable for his “illegal political tactics”, saying his stay at home orders deprives citizens the right to freedom and liberty.
The group had a number of speakers at the event, and as they spoke, about 100 supporters chanted and cheered. In the bandstand area was tons of people, most not social distancing and many without facial coverings as they held signs and flags.
Delaware Newsline was at the event and had a chance to talk to a few people.
“I’m here to call on Governor Carney to allow small businesses and Delaware to reopen”, said Lauren Witzke. “Americans are losing their livelihoods. Small businesses are shutting down and closing their doors forever, and it’s really important that we get Americans back to work and get Delawareans back to work, and Delaware small businesses open immediately.”
But not everyone agreed with the group’s message. “What do they get out of doing this?, that’s what I want to know.”, said Anna Kroust from Newark, Delaware who was at the beach for the day. “What do they get out of breaking the rules, that’s what I want to know, what do they get out of it, Can you tell me because I don’t know.”
As police patrolled the beach on horseback and in jeeps, Rehoboth Beach Police Department was out in full force both at the event and on the boardwalk. Police were expecting the worst – but the worst never happened, including the expectation that counter protesters may show up and cause some disruption or interference to the group.
With the summer season just about to begin, there was a group of cadets on the boardwalk enforcing boardwalk rules. We saw one cadet stop a senior on a bike, reminding him there was no bikes allowed on the boardwalk after 10:00 Am., the senior, donned with a mask, quietly got off his bike and left the boardwalk. There were other minor infractions that led to reminders including smoking on the boardwalk which ended with a man berating the police officer who asked him to leave the boardwalk, yet the officer kept his cool composure and remained calm.
Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said everything was going smoothly and that they had planned for the event. “The event organizer put in a permit which was approved, and it’s been peaceful. We want to make sure that they have a safe space to protest, which we gave them. We did have some chatter about some counter-protesters coming and maybe trying to stop them or disrupt their event, so we had to put a few extra protocols in place, [sic]and there were some barriers, so we made sure that we gave them the opportunity to protest in a peaceful way.”
We saw police operating several drones in the air near the Dolles Salt Water Taffy and nearby the boardwalk to monitor the event.
The majority of those who were in attendance contributed to making this a safe event as they were civil, respectful, and orderly., Rehoboth Beach Police Department
“By planning for this event, we were able to ensure that the appropriate law enforcement resources were available in the Bandstand area and on the entire Boardwalk and beach corridor. These resources allowed us to successfully promote public safety during a rapidly changing event and educate those in attendance to the regulations of the most recent Executive Orders of the Governor and the Mayor.”, said Jaime Riddle, police spokesperson for the Rehoboth Beach Police Department.
“No arrests have been made or citations issued since the beach and Boardwalk were opened for exercise on Friday. One of the most important tools an officer has at their disposal is discretion. Even in the face of the few who tried to antagonize our officers into a response, we maintained a professional demeanor. We are very proud of our officers and all the members of law enforcement who assisted our agency, as they responded with discretion making public safety and order our unified priority.”, Riddle said.
Even though The Governor is not currently under Delaware National Guard protection nor is he utilizing them to enforce martial law, the group is expected to protest at Governor Carney’s office on Thursday afternoon at the Caravel State Office Building in Wilmington.
According to the Facebook group, they plan on asking Governor Carney and the National Guard to “stand down”.
“John Carney is violating his sworn oath a disparaging every man, woman & child in the State of Delaware! He Must End this Authoritarian Rule. We Demand Our Rights Back!!”, said the event description. “We will meet at the Statue of Caesar Rodney on Market Street side of Rodney Square at 12:00PM Noon, We will form ranks and March to The Caravel State Building (3 Blocks) where resides Governor Carney’s Office. Notices to the Governor will be Publicly announced ordering the National Guard & Governor to Honor their Oaths & Stand down.”
As of Saturday, Delaware Division of Health reported a total of 174 positive cases in Delaware with 15 new deaths throughout the state. The positive case trend has been going down with random small spikes, and according to scientific research data, the positive case counts could shoot back up into a second wave if people do not adhere to social distancing and other CDC recommended guidelines.