EVERETT — About 200 protestors gathered Friday outside the Snohomish County Courthouse, in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s order banning public gatherings.
Speakers mocked the social distancing guidelines that have been, among scientists and public health officials, credited with slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus over the past two months.
Many wore red “Make America Great Again” ballcaps associated with President Donald Trump, and waved signs expressing their patience had run thin with the governor’s pace of reopening the state’s economy.
“GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME COVID-19.”
“The Curve Was Flattened / now end the Lockdown.”
“Lock Down Inlsee Not Washington.”
People freely hugged and shook hands. A few elderly attendees wore masks, but almost all of the protestors were bare-faced, sitting or standing inches apart.
At one point, the crowd bowed their heads in prayer for Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney, who lost an attempt to block a recall petition against him minutes earlier. The recall effort was a citizen response to the sheriff’s public statement that the governor’s stay-home order is, in his view, unconstitutional. In a Facebook post, the sheriff said he would not enforce the ban on gatherings, like the one held Friday, just outside of the county sheriff’s office.
“As your elected Sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion,” the sheriff wrote in April. “We have the right to peaceably assemble. … The impacts of COVID-19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.”
Meanwhile, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, the nationwide death toll for COVID-19 topped 88,000 as of this week, with at least 1.4 million people confirmed to be infected.
Inslee has noted that the vast majority of Washingtonians have complied with the order, understanding that it may save many lives of health care workers, first-responders and the general public.
A recent gathering of hundreds of conservative protestors in Olympia, near the governor’s mansion, saw no law enforcement effort to enforce the ban.
Republican candidates for office addressed the crowd Friday in Everett, as a few police officers observed from a distance.
“What we’re doing right now is technically not something we’re supposed to be doing, gathering together and getting too close,” said Jeffrey Beeler Sr., of Sultan, who is running against Suzan DelBene for the U.S. House of Representatives. “But these guys (the authorities), all they want to do is do their job. So just respect what they have to say, and respect what they do.”