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Protesters in Springfield demand end to stay-at-home order

Some said the lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic is hurting local economies.

On Sunday, protesters gathered near the steps of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield calling for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to end his stay-at-home order, set to last until at least April 30.
Neal Earley/Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — For some people, Illinois’ stay-at-home order has gone on long enough.

On Sunday, about two dozen red, white and blue-clad protesters carrying Trump banners gathered near the steps of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield calling for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to end his stay-at-home order, set to last until at least April 30.

The protesters said the lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic is hurting local economies.

“We’re protesting against the injustice of them closing down all the businesses, trying to tell us what to do,” said Tom, a protester from Springfield.

Pritzker’s order banning large gatherings and closing “nonessential” businesses began March 21.

While Illinois had 30,357 reported cases of COVID-19 with 1,290 deaths as of Sunday, many of the protesters said they aren’t worried about coronavirus and compared it to seasonal influenza.

With the vast majority of the state’s cases concentrated in Chicago and Cook County, one protester said the strict social distancing measures should be limited to Cook County.

“You know, what I would do with Chicago is just take Cook County and just build a wall right there and leave everybody inside,” said Robert Tracy, a commercial painter from Joliet. “I know it sounds silly, but I think the rest of the state could function without Cook County.”

Similar protests have taken place in Michigan, Texas and Maryland with protesters urging their state officials to immediately end social distancing restrictions.

Across from the rally, about a half-dozen of counterprotesters gathered. Among them was Allissa Hall, a social services worker from Springfield, holding a sign that said: “People are dying — go home!”

“We are in the middle of a pandemic,” said Hall, who as wearing a face mask and gloves. “We’re sick, people are dying all over the world, not just here. People are making do — they make do.”

But Ashley McLemore, the organizer of Sunday’s protest against the order, said the music school she owns in Dixon has been closed since the governor’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and now she’s struggling to pay bills.

“I have zero money coming into my house, and I have three kids, I’ve got dogs and a cat and a mortgage,” McLemore said.