Hundreds of Reopen Delaware protesters gathered May 16 at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand to oppose continued business and school closures and other restrictions because of COVID-19.
The rally took place roughly 48 hours after Gov. John Carney announced a lifting of restrictions on beaches and boardwalks for in-state residents and out-of-state residents who have quarantined for at least 14 days. Earlier in the week, Rehoboth officials announced a partial reopening of the beach and Boardwalk, beginning Friday, May 15.
While the beach and Boardwalk are partially reopened, many businesses remain closed or open on a very limited basis due to restrictions still in place.
Matt Weiner, Zelky’s general manager of fun, said his businesses have been in Rehoboth Beach for 35 years, and he hopes it won’t be the last. He called on Carney to immediately lift the restrictions. The ends no longer justify the means, he said.
Weiner said the restrictions have led to fear and isolation for Delawareans. The suffering is going to get worse if this continues, he said.
“No one wants to get sick. No one wants to get anyone else sick, but the economic stranglehold will kill us all,” said Weiner.
Chris Rowe, a New Castle County resident who helped organize the event, said whoever is making up the rules on business has obviously never run a business before. How ludicrous and stupid, he said.
Rowe said growing up, when things got difficult, his dad’s favorite saying was, “Things could always be worse.”
Well, things have gotten worse, said Rowe. Two months into socialism, he asked, “How are things going?”
Rowe encouraged the crowd to continue protesting long after the Rehoboth rally was over. The reason these restrictions are easing up is people are getting angry, he said.
“Keep it up,” said Rowe, garnering loud applause.
Republican Lauren Witzke is challenging U.S. Sen Chris Coons, a Democrat, in the 2020 election. She called for immediately opening small, local businesses. Using Walmart as an example, Witzke said allowing large corporations to continue to operate is “a rigged form of global business.”
Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks and a considerable number of his officers were on the scene during the entire rally. About halfway through the protest, while standing on the Boardwalk, he said Reopen Delaware had gotten the permit required by the city and for the most part were doing what they said they were going to do – protest peacefully.
Banks said it would have been nice if there were more social distancing and masks.
In addition to Rehoboth officers on the Boardwalk and in ATVs on the beach, more than a dozen Delaware State Police officers, including its mounted patrol unit, were on hand, Banks said, adding the recent partial reopening definitely defused the potential for confrontation. The additional enforcement was brought in just in case.
Following the two-hour rally, the dozens of protesters who remained made their way down to the beach. Seth Exter, who lives in Harbeson and was born and raised in Rehoboth, was the first to jump into the ocean. He spent no time diving into the waves. He reveled in the opportunity, yelling, “This is our beach,” multiple times to his protesting friends.
Afterward, while drying off and with a big smile on his face, Exter said it felt good to be in the 55-degree water.
“It’s not as bad as doing the Polar Bear Plunge,” he said.