Washington initiative promoter Tim Eyman and state Rep. Matt Shea were among about 50 protesters who gathered near Spokane City Hall on Thursday in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order.
Few of the protesters wore masks as they flouted the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions, which also include a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, at the corner of Post Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard. They denounced the closures of churches, fishing sites and businesses – particularly gun shops – as infringements on their constitutional rights.
“Show Gov. Inslee enough is enough,” Shea said in a Facebook Live video he filmed during the protest. “We are open for business in Washington state.”
Dozens of other protesters circled the block in cars and trucks festooned with protest signs and American flags, honking their horns almost incessantly to garner attention.
A few Spokane police officers could be seen monitoring the protest from a distance. Officers did not arrest or attempt to disperse any of the protesters, whom the police department described as “peaceful and friendly.”
Officers did recommend charges against a 52-year-old woman who allegedly threw eggs at protesters’ vehicles from the window of an apartment at 612 W. Main Ave.
Officers found Cindy L. Albert “still armed with a carton of eggs and perched in her fourth-story window,” according to a news release.
Albert, a Los Angeles resident who told police she’s stuck in Spokane due to the pandemic, was cited for three counts of malicious mischief and one count of disorderly conduct. She was not taken into custody.
Sgt. Terry Preuninger, a police spokesman, said officers are exercising discretion with the governor’s orders and “staying in line with our primary responsibility, which is to protect people and protect property.”
“With everything we’re doing, we are going to evaluate the context of the situation,” Preuninger said. “Our law enforcement approach right now is predominantly education – unless that’s not working.”
Public opinion polls show Americans remain overwhelmingly in favor of stay-home orders and other efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, even as small pockets of rebellion grab attention across the country.
According to a survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research published Tuesday, only 12% of Americans say the restrictions where they live go too far. About twice as many people, 26%, believe the limits don’t go far enough. The majority of Americans – 61% – feel the steps taken by government officials to prevent infections of COVID-19 in their area are about right.
Leonard Christian, a Republican supporter of President Donald Trump who is challenging Shea for his seat in the Legislature, criticized Shea’s participation in the protest.
“Missing Matt Shea has not attended a single Spokane County COVID-19 task force meeting and is using his personal media and elected position to endanger the citizens he is paid to represent,” Christian said in a statement, adding that he supports the “data-driven” approach taken by local mayors, county leaders and public health officials. “I believe the swift actions taken by our leaders kept Washington state from becoming a New York and has saved thousands of lives.”
Christian said, however, that he doesn’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach and called on Inslee to lift restrictions on certain outdoor activities, including fishing, hunting, construction and sports such as golf.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.