Organizers say message of upcoming protest outweighs COVID-19 risk

MADISON (WKOW) -- Despite beingdenied a permitto hold it on the Capitol grounds, organizers told 27 News they still plan to protest there Friday against an extension to Governor Tony Evers' Safer At Home order.

"I think that's another area where they're just telling us to sit down and shut up," said organizer Madison Elmer.

She says the protest is not affiliated with any political groups -- just that 'Safer At Home' was extended unilaterally by Gov. Evers and DHS Secretary Andrea Palm without input from the regular people who have to remain out of work.

"We need to be heard," Elmer said. "Hopefully we have the constitution to back us up."

Elmer says Friday's protest isn't about ending 'Safer At Home' right now, but about having more voices included in the path forward.

"We would like (Gov. Evers) to just work with us on a plan and start things going to reopen Wisconsin," she said. "We don't need it now, now, now."

Elmer says phone calls and emails to the governor have gone unreturned, which is why they're showing up in person -- despite the risks that such a large gathering poses.

"There's always that concern," she said. "But I'd tell the people who are concerned about this, please take precautionary measures to protect yourself. You are ultimately responsible for your own health. If you feel comfortable wearing a mask, wear a mask, wear gloves. If anybody is sick, please stay home. If you don't feel comfortable with people standing closer than 6 feet, that is your job to tell them to move away."

The protest has drawn sharp criticism, includingfrom local clergylike Rev. Greg Lewis, who says he is recovering from COVID-19.

"Four of my friends died while I was in the hospital," he said. "And I don't think that's anything that people should take lightly... To ask people to comingle at this point I think is just ludicrous."

Elmer says the protesters know the risks but have greater concerns.

"I don't see that a lot of them are worried about a virus," she said. "Like, yes, it's real, but they're worried about not having food on their tables."

Elmer says Facebook took down an event post for the protest Wednesday with no explanation, though 3,700 people had already said they were going.

She says she wants it to be a peaceful protest.

State Capitol Police will be responsible for monitoring the capitol grounds on Friday for the protest. Elmer says she has remained in contact with them throughout the planning process.

Capitol Police have not yet responded to a 27 News inquiry about enforcement plans. Madison Police says it will have officers standing by monitoring the crowd. The Dane County Sheriff's Office says it has not been requested to assist.

More at WKOW 27 News

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