Carrying loud horns and Gadsden flags with the “Don’t Tread on Me” message, protesters who turned out Wednesday in Frankfort during Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily update are adding a new wrinkle to the Bluegrass State’s battle against COVID-19.
The Facebook group “Kentucky is Open for Business” promoted a Friday “Caravan at the Capital” event to its roughly 3,400 members before the page was deleted.
It looks to be an even larger demonstration than the one that rattled the governor’s supporters Wednesday and drowned out part of his press conference inside the Capitol.
“We are losing our rights as Kentuckians,” said an online flyer, provided to The Courier Journal by a source within the group. “Andy needs to know he works for us!!!”
The caravan is scheduled for Friday morning, according to the flyer, and calls for participants to “make some noise” and flood the area with vehicles.
On Thursday, things were pretty quiet outside the Capitol before Beshear began his daily coronavirus briefing. But it was clear the administration had made some changes in the wake of the unexpected protest the day before.
Several Kentucky State Police troopers stood watch, and caution tape had been posted around a wide swath of lawn where protesters had stood Wednesday, effectively roping it off to ward off another gathering there.
Yellow barricades had been set up to block people from entering the area that surrounds the windows of the room where Beshear gives his briefings at 5 p.m. each afternoon.
Dr. Steven Stack, the state health commissioner, said in statement Thursday he asked state troopers to provide Kentuckians with an alternative option to demonstrate.
“I am saddened that COVID-19 has so severely disrupted our society and am deeply respectful of our right to gather to express different opinions,” Stack said.
Participants must remain in their vehicles and stay in designated parking areas, he said.
“These options allow people to use their voices and be heard while protecting the public health,” Stack said.
Beshear has been called everything from Mister Rogers to Darth Vader for his handling of the contagion. And while the governor has been praised by many for keeping the focus on the health and lives of Kentuckians, some liberty-minded residents say he needs to be more responsive to their concerns.
“People are frustrated, and they’re not having input on this at all because the governor is dictating,” said Scott Hofstra, spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party.
Hofstra, of Vine Grove, said those who participated in Wednesday’s protests are a coalition of small business owners, military veterans and concerned parents.
Many have poured their entire life savings into their businesses, he said, and have a right to express themselves, even in the face of social distancing guidelines.
“The governor is putting a higher priority on locking the entire state down for a virus that, as of a day or so ago, had a death rate that is 1/6th of the traffic accidents in Kentucky,” Hofstra said.