PHOENIX — Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Capitol Monday — virtually none wearing masks — to object to Gov. Doug Ducey’s orders requiring people to stay at home and closing what he says are nonessential businesses.
The event drew people with signs and complaints about everything from gun rights to whether boys should be circumcised. And there were dozens promoting the reelection of President Trump.
But the common thread was a contention that the fears of COVID-19 are overblown, the governor’s orders are damaging the economy, and that all this is part of a liberal- and media-fed agenda.
“I love our country and I love our Constitution and I love our flag, and I love freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Jamie Jacobs of Scottsdale, dressed in red, white and blue and carrying an American flag.
“And I feel that’s being tread on right now,” she said. “There’s a bigger agenda going on.”
John Suprock, dressed in an American flag shirt, said, “I think the media has overblown the true virus issue.”
Suprock, carrying a sign saying “Cure is worse than the virus,” said original estimates were that 2.4 million people might die in this country. Now, he said, the figure is likely to be fewer than 60,000, “which is less than the flu in a typical year.”
He brushed aside Ducey’s position that his orders have kept the number of deaths from getting higher.
“There’s no way for either side to prove that because there’s no control group,” Suprock said. “So if I was a politician I would probably say the same thing.”
In a prepared statement, gubernatorial press aid Patrick Ptak said those in the Ducey administration “appreciate the passion expressed by Arizonans today, and we share their desire to get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Ptak said the governor, in making his decisions about closures and stay-at-home orders, has been working with others — including those whom some of the protesters clearly like.
“Gov. Ducey is working closely with President Trump, Vice President Pence,” Ptak said, and with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, both advisers to the president.
He said Ducey is also working with state Health Director Dr. Cara Christ “and state, local and federal health experts to implement the latest guidance from the CDC and the White House.”
Ducey has “a commitment to re-energizing our economy when it is responsible to do so,” Ptak said.
Daniel McCarthy, a Republican candidate hoping to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Martha McSally in the August primary election, said he’s not accepting the governor’s contention that his orders are necessary to reduce the number of people contracting the virus.
“When did we start trading a virus for our civil liberties?” McCarthy said, adding that there are “almost 200 pandemics on average a year” and that cancer kills 600,000 people a year.
“And it doesn’t shut down our economy,” he said.
He wasn’t swayed by the fact that cancer, unlike the virus, is not contagious.
“Cancer is something that’s hereditary, right?” McCarthy said. “So should we stop procreation because of the fact we could have cancer deaths?”
He said all this is part of the “goal of the left.”
“The left and the right work together,” he said, saying he was referring to Ducey. “The parties are broken.”
One of those who spoke to the crowd was Dan Mazon, the owner of a Winslow jewelry store who was cited for failing to close as a nonessential business.
Mazon contends he was operating as a department store because he also had other items, including paper towels, and he had ordered some hay to sell.
“You don’t have to be afraid when somebody coughs,” he told the crowd. “It’s normal.”
Mazon said the overall number of deaths from all causes is no higher than normal.
“So they’re just using this to manipulate us, to bring fear into people of the United States,” he said.
“I don’t care if I die of corona,” Mazon said. “Give me my freedom.”
Ducey is likely to face continued protests, with organizers saying they intend to come back every week until he lifts his orders.
“We hope that Gov. Ducey will open Arizona now,” said state Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa. “But I agree, if we have to come back we’ll come back with 10 times as many people.”
Department of Public Safety officers mostly stood aside, though Capt. David Cates did tell an organizer that a converted fire truck blaring music and being used for public address was illegally in Wes Bolin Park, across from the Capitol, because no one obtained a permit from the Department of Administration.
Despite that, DPS took no action to move the truck or shut down the amplifiers before the protesters moved on to march on the Capitol.