Cooper cites First Amendment as allowance for mass gatherings in protests

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Mass gatherings are limited to 25 people under Gov. Roy Cooper’s current executive order to curb the spread of COVID-19, but that rule hasn’t applied to protests. Many have questioned why that is the case?

Cooper cited the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble in the U.S. Constitution as something his executive orders were not intended to infringe upon. His original executive order did, however, limit gatherings at churches — also protected under the First Amendment.

“Just as we did with the reopen protests over the decisions made on the pandemic, under our executive order we allow for First Amendment protests to be exempted from the executive order on mass gatherings,” Cooper said. “Those protests occurred in May and they continued to occur and people had a right to do that. People were gathered together exceeding the mass gathering and that’s happening now with the protests we’ve been having lately.”

“It’s important for people to have the right to protest. In our executive order, we have allowed for those First Amendment freedoms,” Cooper said. “But at the same time we want people to be careful. We want people to understand that whatever activity they’re doing, that this virus is still here, that this virus is still killing people and that social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands are all critically important to slow the spread of the virus. We hope people, wherever they are, whatever they are doing, will remember those.”

Rick Curl can be reached at rcurl@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2037.

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