EL PASO, Texas — A group of about 100 protesters gathered in downtown El Paso on Saturday, defying stay-at-home and social-distancing orders, to stage an “Open Texas” rally aimed at making pressure on state and local authorities to reopen the economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group occasionally chanted “Open Texas,” as some motorists along downtown streets honked their horns in support. But several downtown residents could also be heard shouting “Go home” at protesters.
Protesters waved American and Texan flags along with banners supporting President Trump and signs reading ‘all jobs are essential’; some wore face masks — including a few with the Confederate flag design — while others wore no face coverings, in violation of a joint city/county mandate that went into effect Friday.
“We are here, we have people left and right. At the end of the day, you have to realize that you have two wings attached to the same bird. We are all one people, we are El Paso,” said Sammy Carrejo , an organizer of the protest. “So we’re here to represent everyone affected by the economy, which is 100% of the population.”
While protest organizers have said they want the state to reopen “safely,” ironically some rally attendees violated face covering and social distancing requirements that officials say are aimed at stop the spread of coronavirus.
Many police officers on bicycles were at the scene of the demonstration. As they sought to keep protesters off the streets, no citations were issued to those without face coverings. Officers said they are not yet issuing face mask citations because the city is still in an “educational” period following the recent issuance of this warrant by the mayor and county judge.
Currently, El Paso has a “stay at home, work safe” order in place through May 17 that orders people to stay home unless they are engaged in essential activities or activities. Texas and El Paso have eased those restrictions slightly in recent days, allowing some non-essential businesses to provide “retail to go” services as well as reopening walking paths in local parks.
But those who took part in Saturday’s protest want all businesses to be allowed to reopen, whether they are deemed essential or not.
“Our business has come to a screeching halt. Of course the bills keep coming in and the landlords want their rent. The employees want their pay. It’s been very difficult to deal with,” said Frank Ricci, owner of The Rocking Cigar. Bar. “We had no idea it was going to be this difficult.”
Governor Greg Abbott teased in an interview earlier this week with ABC-7 that an announcement Monday from his office could mark the return of hair salons and restaurants allowed to resume at a time when President Trump is aiming for a quick recovery. at national scale. opening.
By Saturday, more than 23,000 Texans had been infected with the virus and 623 had died. Texas reported another 967 cases of people testing positive on Saturday, an increase of about 4% from the previous day. El Paso-specific numbers were due to be released later Saturday.