Protesters associated with the controversial 'Reopen NC' group in Raleigh in April. (Image for Cardinal & Pine by Grant Baldwin) 'Reopen NC' Protesters
Protesters associated with the controversial 'Reopen NC' group in Raleigh in April. (Image for Cardinal & Pine by Grant Baldwin)

Hospitalizations are soaring in NC, but the fringe group wants to lift all coronavirus measures.

A controversial group of protesters advocating for a full reopening of NC gathered in Raleigh Wednesday to demand the impeachment of NC Gov. Roy Cooper. 

Members of Reopen NC confronted lawmakers in the hallways of the General Assembly Legislative Building, even as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state continued to climb to record highs.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said 994 people were hospitalized with the virus, breaking Tuesday’s record of 989.

Speaking early Wednesday, Reopen NC co-founder Ashley Smith, who was arrested at a Raleigh reopening rally in April, offered why her organization supports the impeachment of Cooper.

“I was arrested for daring to step on a sidewalk,” Smith said. “Yet Cooper rolled out a red carpet for Marxist Antifa movements and rioters who destroyed our streets statewide.” 

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Smith is citing a debunked far-right conspiracy theory, advanced by the Trump administration, that Antifa plotted to sow destruction through Black Lives Matter protests.

In this tactic, Reopen NC has joined other such movements across the country in broadening their focus from lifting restrictions to attacking Black Americans and their protests against police department’s use of excessive force.

Members of Reopen California, which rebranded itself as California Patriots Pro Law & Order, have used profane slurs to refer to Black people and protesters, calling them “animals,” “racist” and “thugs.”

Reopen NC has not resorted to similar language, though Smith has said Cooper is committed to the “socialist takeover” of North Carolina.

RELATED: Rep. Alma Adams: Trump Is Taking A ‘No Lives Matter’ Approach To Coronavirus

Smith said that she does not believe the governor will be voted out of office in November, which is why she is advocating for impeachment.

Her group, which reportedly has connections to Trump campaign backers, has created a petition calling for the removal of Cooper’s removal. It had 5,500 signatures as of Wednesday morning. 

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Smith said her group is working with articles of impeachment that currently exist in the state Constitution.

The actual filing of articles of impeachment looks highly unlikely, since significant numbers of Democrats would have to cross the aisle to join the Republicans in calling for the governor’s ouster. Currently Cooper rides a wave of popularity, with a majority of North Carolinian respondents to a June CNBC/Change Research poll supporting the governor’s coronavirus policies. 

Another North Carolina poll further indicates that ReOpen NC’s ideology reflects a minority view. Respondents to a Meredith College poll in May said they don’t support the quick reopening amid a pandemic that ReOpen NC advocates.

ReOpen NC has opposed the governor’s policies to contain the virus ever since he announced a stay-at-home order in March. They have since protested all subsequent restrictions, claiming that Cooper has been exercising too much power during the pandemic. 

At a previous rally, the group opposed Cooper’s statewide mask mandate, saying it went against their constitutional rights. In a Facebook video last month, Smith burned a mask while claiming that it did not protect wearers from contracting  COVID-19, although multiple scientific studies have shown that masks significantly reduce the spread of the deadly virus. 

The group arrived in Raleigh the same day GOP lawmakers failed to override Cooper’s veto on a slew of reopening bills.