GREENSBORO, N.C. — UPDATE: The Reopen NC rally in Greensboro is currently underway downtown. Our Jess Winters will be covering the protest which is one of five statewide on Memorial Day.
PREVIOUS REPORT: Memorial Day rallies are scheduled in five cities across North Carolina, including Greensboro, to demand the state fully reopen during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as part of the "Reopen NC" movement.
The rally will take place during phase 2 of NC's reopening, where outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people are not allowed, in order to slow the spread of coronavirus, with certain exceptions such as the exercise of first amendment rights.
As of Sunday, 744 people have died from COVID-19 and 587 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, according to the NCDHHS.
The "Freedom Rally" is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. at the Governmental Plaza at 110 S Greene St. in Greensboro, according to the Facebook event.
The event will include speakers, food trucks, and music, according to the organizer.
The "Reopen NC" movement is a loose collection of people who believe executive orders to close down businesses and place restrictions on life during the pandemic are unconstitutional.
It has sparked a war of words on social media and protests across the state, including counter-protests and criticism that people rushing the reopening process are placing residents at increased risk of coronavirus infection.
The rallies planned for Monday on Memorial Day are set to happen in Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Asheville, and Wilmington.
"Together in 5 cities across our great state, We will rally and march for freedom," the Facebook event says. "We will honor the 2.8 Million (Wikipedia) Americans Military Heroes who paid the ultimate price for Freedom. Let their sacrifice not be in vain."
"Will you take a stand against Roy Cooper and his Unconstitutional Executive Order? Will you stand up for Freedom and the Freedom of generations to come?" the event description adds.
Ashley Smith, one of the lead organizers for the rallies, spoke with WFMY News 2 on Sunday.
"It's going to be very Memorial Day focused. This year a lot of the Memorial Day festivities are canceled and people are obviously upset about that. So I think this is going to provide people an opportunity to come out and honor fallen heroes while marching for our freedom," Smith said.
Smith said she and other event organizers have obtained required permits as necessary and are working with law enforcement.
Currently, North Carolina is in phase two of the state's guidelines for reopening, which encourages residents to stay at home when possible.
Guidelines encourage people to stay at least six feet apart from others, wear a cloth face covering, and wash hands as much as possible.
Gatherings for parades, fairs, festivals and other events are limited to a maximum of 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors during phase two.
The novel coronavirus spreads from person-to-person primarily through respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Greensboro, the scheduled speakers include Mark Robinson, candidate for Lt. Governor of North Carolina, and self-described "conservative Republican" and "true American patriot," according to his campaign website.
N.C. Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey is also listed as a speaker.
Pastor Fred Daniel, part of the lawsuit demanding that places of worship be allowed to reopen, is also slated to speak.
Colonel Ron Rabin and Stephanie Mitchell are also listed as speakers.
'I don't need to be handled like a child'
On Sunday, WFMY News 2 spoke with Aryn Schloemer, a High Point resident and organizer of the Greensboro "Freedom Day" rally.
"I think there's a lot of interest. I think people are pretty frustrated," Schloemer said.
Schloemer said she is a retired scientist and currently runs a horse farm. She became involved in the Reopen NC movement after attending rallies in Raleigh.
"I was frustrated. I felt trapped. I didn't have any other outlet to express my anger and frustration, and when I saw them it was a pretty easy decision," Schloemer said.
Schloemer said she has not been satisfied with how North Carolina is handling the reopening process.
"I don't need to be handled like a child. We are all American adults, and we should be treated like one," Schloemer said.
The rally organizer also said the state has not been consistent with which businesses are required to remain closed, and said she would like to see more data from health officials.
"I'm not asking permission to do things anymore. I'm not going to be grateful to be in phase 2. I am going to be grateful when (the governor) respects our constitutional rights. All I'm looking for from our government is information, correct unbiased information, so that I can make educated decisions for myself, my family, and my business," Schloemer said.
FACTS NOT FEAR
Remember facts, not fear when talking about the coronavirus. You should take the same measures recommended by health leaders to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses. That means washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and covering coughs and sneezes.
WHERE YOU GET INFORMATION ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS IS IMPORTANT
It is important to make sure the information you are getting about the coronavirus is coming directly from reliable sources like the CDC and NCDHHS. Be careful not to spread misinformation about coronavirus on social media.
NC CORONAVIRUS HOTLINE
The state also has a special hotline set up where you can call 866-462-3821 for more information on the coronavirus. You can also submit questions online at ncpoisoncontrol.org or select chat to talk with someone about the virus.
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(Editors note: the story has been updated to reflect the first amendment exception to the 25-person limit on mass gatherings)