State Rep. to Join Anti-Lockdown Protest In Front of Maine Governor Mansion

Maine Republican State Rep. Chris Johansen is expected to join a protest on Monday in front of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' mansion.

Johansen is hosting the "Re-Open Maine" Convoy and Parade, a protest scheduled for Monday, April 20 at noon which will circle the Governor's Mansion in Augusta to protest Mills' stay-at-home orders instated to stop the spread of coronavirus. Another group plans on protesting the state capitol Monday as well.

Johansen's Facebook event page for the protest at the Governor's Mansion states, "It is time we sent our governor this message: 'Maine needs to get back to work, we understand that this disease is contagious, and we are responsibly following the guidelines.'"

Mills' declared a state of emergency on March 18 closing all schools, most parks and non-essential businesses statewide. The order also discouraged people from using public transportation. At the start of April, she issued a stay-at-home order and another closing all hotels and rental properties, except for housing "vulnerable populations" and necessary workers.

Her initial stay-at-home order was set to expire April 30, but she has since extended it to May 15. In the meanwhile, she has said that her state is coordinating with New Hampshire and Vermont on how to safely reopen their economies. Similar coalitions have developed amongst western, midwestern and eastern states.

On Friday, she said she'd soon unveil plans for a phased-in reopening "tailored to the demographics and various economic sectors of our state," but provided no additional details.

However, Johansen thinks the statewide measures are unnecessary due to the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state.

Maine has had 633 confirmed coronavirus cases and 19 deaths. The highest number of cases have occurred in Cumberland County with 360 cases, York County with 170 cases and Kennebec County, where the capital is located, with 95 cases. Thus far, 11 of the state's 16 counties have had 15 or fewer cases.

Currently, only 28 of the state's 151 critical care hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients and only eight patients are using the state's 584 available ventilators.

Coronavirus Quarantine Lockdown protest
People take part in a protest for "Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine" at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on April 15, 2020. The group is upset with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's (D-MI) expanded the states stay-at-home order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty

Johansen's event asks people to bring bull horns, carry flags and wear Trump's trademark red "Make America Great Again" ball caps, as well as face masks. The invite also tells would-be attendees to "keep a 6-foot distance" between one another.

He acknowledges that he and other attendees will be taking a risk, but he says a rope with red markings will help protesters stay distanced from one another. "I wouldn't be doing it if it just wasn't so important to these businesses," Johansen told the Press Herald.

Another Facebook group, ReOpen Maine and Mainers Against Excessive Quarantine, announced on Friday its intentions to assemble "thousands" of protesters at the State House on Monday as well.

Officers overseeing the protest will focus on education and leniency, Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin told the publication.

"We are going to cut them a lot of slack," Gauvin said. "We understand people want to have their voices heard, and if they do it in a reasonable manner, I don't think there are going to a lot of problems."

Similar protests have occurred this week in the capitals of Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma with groups in the hundreds or thousands. Facebook groups are also planning upcoming protests on Idaho, Indiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington state and Wisconsin.

These protests may simply represent a loud minority, however. A Pew Research Center poll released on Thursday showed that 66 percent of Americans worry their state governments may relax social distancing measures too quickly—32 percent worried the measures may last too long.