Hundreds rallied at Dealey Plaza in Dallas Saturday to call for the reopening of all Texas businesses without restrictions.
Kevin Whitt was one of the organizers behind the “Set Texas Free” rally, which lasted for about two hours Saturday afternoon.
“What we, as a people, saw is there are less people dying of COVID-19 than are unemployed." he said. "We are losing our economy. There is so many people in Texas that are still unemployed,."
The rally came a day after places like salons and barbershops could reopen for the first time since mid-March, and just over a week after restaurant dining rooms and retail stores could open again, as well, but with limited capacity.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
Businesses back in operation must follow safety guidelines. Gyms are set to be reopen on May 18. Though, businesses like tattoo parlors and massage therapy studios are still waiting on the date they can potentially reopen.
“Our message really is to everyone in a governmental position, we believe that the people can take responsibility, that the people know how to be responsible in protecting themselves and others from disease, and that it’s time open Texas back up,” said Jill Glover, who also helped organize the rally.
Glover said they also wanted to honor Shelley Luther. The Dallas salon owner who received national attention after she reopened her business in late April despite, at the time, state and county orders against doing so.
Luther was jailed Tuesday after District Court Judge Eric Moyé found her in criminal and civil contempt of court for refusing to close her salon, even after she received a temporary restraining order from the city of Dallas and after refusing to apologize for repeatedly flouting a state order to remain closed.
She was released Thursday following from an order from the Texas Supreme Court.
“I don’t feel like I’m leading anything,” Luther said at the rally Saturday. “I feel like my dad, who fought in the wars, and all of these war veterans, you led the way. We’re trying to get that back. We’re just trying to get what you already fought for, we’re trying to get that back.”
NBC 5 reached out to the office of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson regarding Saturday’s rally. A spokesperson said as of Friday, they were unaware of the planned rally, but “would look into it”.
In an editorial in The Dallas Morning News Saturday, Johnson wrote he avoided commenting on the details of Luther’s case because the city attorney has pursued litigation.
“But I will say that I have been troubled by the reaction to this spectacle. The intense reaction we have seen is endemic of the larger devolution into partisanship during this COVID-19 response,” Johnson wrote.
Regarding Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan on reopening, Johnson said he would “still work to make sure his plan is successful, even as I worry about the pace of these decisions, because lives are at stake.”
“That’s why I see no value in all the hubbub over a hair salon. We can’t afford to make martyrs out of those who flout the rule of law. And we can’t send the mixed message that public health guidelines are critical unless it’s unprofitable for you to follow them. That is an affront to those who follow the rules and act responsibly in these incredibly challenging times,” Johnson wrote. “But we also shouldn’t downplay any business owner’s plight in these desperate times or minimize the effect of this disease on people’s livelihoods.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Abbott’s declined to comment on the rally.