More than 100 people gathered at the Butler County Historic Courthouse in Hamilton on Saturday to urge the state to lift the stay-at-home order and allow businesses and people to get back to work.
The Open Ohio Now! rally, hosted by Butler County residents and business owners Diane VanWeelden and Todd Minniear, was an opportunity for people to show their beliefs with signs and conversation.
Signs including “Trust the People,” “Freedom over fear,” “All businesses are essential” and “Honk for Freedom” were waved along High Street and got plenty of honks of support from passing motorists.
A couple held signs specifically supporting the opening of bars, stating “Mama ain’t Happy … Nobody happy. Open bars.”
Hamilton resident James Capehart said he got the virus and, despite having other health conditions, has recovered.
“We know it is less than 1% of the people being affected, so let’s open it up and put our resources into those affected. Let everyone else get on with their lives,” Capehart said.
While Gov. Mike DeWine has announced a gradual opening with social distancing rules for businesses in the next few week, Minniear said part of why the rally was held was to protest how decisions were made by government officials in response to the virus.
“The fact that one or two people are dictating this without the rest of our elected officials, that is something the we have to fix going forward,” Minniear said. “Not everything is open yet. It has come slow, too slow. Leaders have been very slow to react to the reality of the data after predicting millions would die and they are not being transparent with the data.”
Three area elected officials gave supportive speeches — Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix, West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch and state Rep. George Lang.
“Business is the lifeblood, providing meaning to peoples’ lives … I come to you today as a tax collector understanding when tens of millions are out of work, people can’t pay their taxes … We now have children sitting idle, trying to be educated by computer,” Nix said. “We must protect the vulnerable and allow the rest to get on with their lives. We must let business owners provide for the safety of their customers. Let’s get back to work and stop unelected bureaucrats from making decision for us.”
Lang said this country was founded on individual freedom and much of that is limited right now and that has to change.
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