Utahns gathered outside the Salt Lake City and County Building this evening to protest government-mandated safety measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
More than a thousand people showed up and voiced their concerns about continued social distancing measures they say are hurting their ability to work as well as the economy in general. Attendees also drove around the block honking their horns in support.
Originally there were two protests planned, but they were combined into one. The rally was advertised as the Salt Lake City Safe Business Rally/Revival hosted by the Facebook group Utah Business Revival. Attendees were encouraged to stay with their friends and family and stay seven feet away from other groups, but most congregated in a large group at the front of the rally. The event also suggested buying dinner at local restaurants to boost the economy.
Sandy resident Nate Lambert organized the other rally planned for the day. He originally asked people to drive their cars around the capitol building and honk their horns to show their support for opening businesses before he updated the Facebook event page to match that of the Utah Business Revival’s rally.
Lambert said the rally was a huge success. “I think we sent a strong message to the governor, to the mayor of Salt Lake City and the mayor of Salt Lake County to end these quarantines and let Utah get back to work,” he said.
Lambert started a Facebook page during the pandemic called “Let America Work!” that has about 2,500 members from across the nation who support easing social distancing measures.
“My goal is to gather all the business owners, to gather all the people that really don’t think that the economy should be shut down over COVID-19 and get them to let these local government officials know that they’re in pain,” Lambert said.
While Lambert said he believes the virus is real, he doesn’t think the state should be shutting down the economy over it. He pointed out that many small business owners spent their whole lives building their businesses and now many are going out of business during the pandemic. Lambert is a business owner himself, and he said that’s what drove him to organize the Facebook group and the rally. “I want to just be their champion and help support this cause to get Utah back to work so we can save the economy,” he said.
American Fork resident Jordan Gundersen attended the rally with his wife. He said they decided to attend because they own a small business that has been negatively affected by the measures to curb the pandemic, but the bigger reason they participated was to defend their rights.
“We believe that God has given us the rights that are enshrined in both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution,” Gundersen said. “Government is instituted to protect those rights, not government tells us when we can exercise our rights.”
Many families also attended the rally. Bountiful resident Mike Brown brought his whole family because he hoped to show them the importance of standing up for their rights. He said his oldest son held a class for his Eagle Scout project last fall that taught community members about the Constitution and the five aspects of the First Amendment. “Today we’re standing up for at least three of those aspects of the First Amendment,” he said.
Brown also said he decided to attend the rally because of actions made by local officials in regard to social distancing measures. “The government doesn’t have the right to restrict our rights even during a pandemic,” Brown said. “Believe it or not, the founding fathers had plenty of viruses and things to deal with, so it’s not a new thing.”