’It’s time to get things back rolling’
ROCKFORD — A vocal crowd of about 100 people gathered Saturday at the intersection of East State Street and Perryville Road to demand that businesses shuttered by Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order be allowed to reopen.
The group contended that Pritzker is using his executive authority to arbitrarily decide which businesses are essential during the COVID-19 pandemic while at the same time crushing so-called non-essential small businesses that people spent their lives building.
“The purpose is to just draw attention to the fact that small businesses in particular and individuals as well are hurting financially and spiritually,” said rally organizer Jane Little, 56, of Loves Park. “Our churches are closed. Our businesses are closed, and it’s time to get things back rolling.”
Little and her husband own and operate retail stores in Rockford and Sterling that she said had been closed for three weeks because of the governor’s executive order but have since reopened for curbside service.
“We’re hurting and it’s interesting that government officials never really suffer in these kinds of situations,” Little said. “They continue to collect their paychecks while the rest of us scrape by and get handouts from the government, which is not what we want. We want to provide for our families.”
Many of those who took part in Saturday’s rally waved American flags and carried signs reading “No more fear” and “Freedom to work” while passing motorists honked their horns in support.
Pritzker’s initial stay-at-home order went into effect March 21. His most recent modified order is scheduled to expire May 30.
Pritzker on Tuesday outlined a five-phase regional plan called “Restore Illinois” to reopen the state for business, education and recreational activities.
The state’s North-Central region includes Winnebago, Boone and Stephenson counties.
The entire state is in Phase 2 of the plan, which is when the rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to hospital and intensive care unit beds increases at a slowing rate.
Under Phase 3 of the governor’s plan, the rate of infection among those tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining.
Manufacturers, offices, retail outlets, barbershops and salons would be allowed to reopen under Phase 3 with capacity limits and other safety measures in place. All gatherings would still be limited to 10 or fewer people.
A region can enter Phase 4 when 20% or fewer people tested are positive for COVID-19 and the hospitalization rate remains stable or declines.
A region can’t enter Phase 5 until a highly effective treatment is developed or there are no new COVID-19 cases for a sustained period.
Those who attended Saturday’s rally were not in the mood to wait any longer.
“Many small businesses are suffering,” said Mary Lien, 19, of Davis Junction. “They can have the same guidelines as the superstores to be able to put their employees back to work as long as their employees feel safe coming back to work.”
Rally participant Steve Dahle, 75, of Rockford described himself as a Christian and as a citizen of heaven and of the United States.
“I want to be free,” Dahle said. “I believe the government in this state is overstepping the constitutional rights of its people. What they say is essential and non-essential doesn’t make sense.”
Ken DeCoster: email@example.com; @DeCosterKen