Photo by Cardinal & Pine contributor Grant Baldwin. 'Reopen NC' protesters rally on Memorial Day to protest Gov. Cooper's coronavirus orders.
Photo by Cardinal & Pine contributor Grant Baldwin.

Protesters in Charlotte, Greensboro, Asheville, Wilmington and Raleigh demand easing of Gov. Cooper’s social distance orders.

The number of coronavirus cases in North Carolina may still be climbing, but that hasn’t stopped protestors associated with the ‘Reopen’ movement.

The controversial advocacy group planned five rallies across the state on Memorial Day, gathering simultaneously in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington and Asheville. In the days before those protests, Adam Smith, the husband of ‘Reopen NC’ co-founder Ashley Smith, spurred safety concerns when he reportedly talked about violence in a social media post. 

But by most accounts, Monday’s rallies were peaceful, albeit modest in size. See below for Cardinal & Pine contributor Grant Baldwin’s photo essay of Monday’s rally in Charlotte. Roughly 30 to 40 met in the city’s South Park area before circling in a caravan of about 15-20 vehicles around the mall. 

RELATED: New COVID-19 Cases In NC Just Spiked. Here’s How Much.

The group has been politically polarizing since they began marching to protest social distancing orders in April. 

Most polling indicates the majority of North Carolinians support Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 policies, which were eased somewhat on Friday.

Now in Phase 2 of Cooper’s reopening plan, restaurants and salons can reopen, although other indoor businesses such as bars, nightclubs, movie theaters and gyms will remain closed. 

As of Monday, officials with the NC Department of Health and Human Services have reported nearly 24,000 cases in the state, and 754 deaths. And the US death toll approaches almost 100,000.

NC managed to avoid huge spikes in new cases in early spring, but the number of new cases continues to swell as testing is made more available, a worrying sign according to at least one epidemiologist who advised Cooper’s office in April. 

Despite that, Cooper’s office has agreed to lower some restrictions.

As the ‘Reopen NC’ group held protests in five cities on Memorial Day, Charlotte participants gathered at Morrison Regional Library in SouthPark, where local organizer Nikki Pratt-Nunley explained that the car rally would drive laps around SouthPark Mall while honking horns to bring attention to their cause.
Charlotte participants in the five-city ‘ReopenNC’ protests place signage on their vehicle before departing Morrison Regional Library in SouthPark with plans to join other protesters driving laps around SouthPark Mall while honking horns to bring attention to their cause.
‘Reopen NC’ protesters gathered at Fairview Road and Barclay Downs near South Park Mall in Charlotte in support of abolishing the states Stay-At-Home order, and to cheer on the participants who were part of a car caravan.
‘ReOpen NC’ protesters gathered at Fairview Road and Barclay Downs near South Park Mall in Charlotte in support of abolishing the states Stay-At-Home order, and to cheer on the participants who were part of a car-caravan.
Vehicles participating in the ‘Reopen NC’ protest near South Park Mall in Charlotte in support of abolishing the states Stay-At-Home order, and to cheer on the participants who were part of a car caravan.
‘Reopen NC’ protesters gathered near South Park Mall in Charlotte in support of abolishing the states Stay-At-Home order, and to cheer on the participants who were part of a car caravan.
‘Reopen NC’ Protesters
‘Reopen NC’ protesters gathered near South Park Mall in Charlotte in support of abolishing the states stay-at-home order, and to cheer on the participants who were part of a car caravan.