Seventeen placard waving protesters stood outside the Governor’s Mansion demanding an immediate end to the preventative measures aimed at slowing the community spread of the novel coronavirus.

Their chants included: “Closing all the churches and all the schools, in America breaks all the rules.” As they chanted a stream of about 14 cars and pickups streamed by blowing their horns and waving American flags in support.

“He’s surrounded by state workers and medical personnel. They’re receiving full paychecks. He’s not hearing from people like us,” said Patrick McCarron, a Baton Rouge landlord, who carried a sign that read “Bankruptcy, foreclosure and anarchy coming soon!”

Along with closing down bars, casinos, gyms and other businesses, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards asked nonessential workers to stay at home and ended the school year for most of the state’s students. He has extended those directives until May 1 and hinted that they may be renewed.

Unemployment has skyrocketed and Louisiana’s economy has dived.

The protesters said the economy won’t rebound unless the governor lifts the restrictions. Edwards has voiced concern about reigniting the startling infection and death rates. But he’s also started talking about plans to phase in a reopening of the state.

McCarron said the virus spread was not as extreme as initially suspected. The hospitals have plenty of beds, personnel and ventilators to handle those infected with the sometimes-fatal virus.

“We have no reason to wait. We have to reopen businesses and reopen this economy,” McCarron said.

“My friends are hurting,” said Brittany Sherlin, of Central, who carried a sign that read: “We the people are ready to geaux back to work.”

“We need to reopen our state,” she said.

Sherlin said she believes that the people most susceptible to the serious manifestations of COVID-19, such as the elderly and people with underlying health problems, should remain behind closed doors. But healthy people, like herself, should get on with life. If they become infected, they’ll weather the virus, get well and maybe become immune to the disease, she said.

(The medical community isn’t yet sure whether COVID-19 produces an immunity for survivors, as many viruses do, or whether it can recur year after year, as many flus do.)

Sherlin said the protest was organized by a couple of groups – March for Liberty and Reopen Louisiana – and was organized on social media.

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A half dozen police, many wearing masks, stood in front of the closed gates to the mansion.

The governor wasn't inside the Mansion at the time.

Later in the day, Edwards said, “We have 4.7 million people in Louisiana. We are not always going to agree on everything.”

Edwards said restrictions are in place because of a public health emergency. “That is not something that they (protesters) have to worry about," he added. 

Nathan Thomas, of Denham Springs, wore a Trump for President t-shirt and carried a sign saying “JBHitler, free Louisiana!”

Edwards “never had the right” to restrict businesses, churches and schools as the governor did in mid-March. “The governor can only make suggestions, make guidelines,” Thomas said.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.