Maine protesters hit back at ‘tyranny’ of state’s coronavirus restrictions

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Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ residence and the state capital Monday to denounce what they regard as the government’s overreach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 100 people showed up at the State House in Augusta wearing masks, holding signs, and ignoring the 6-foot social distancing rule, while about 250 people protested outside Mills’ residence.

Anti-stay-at-home demonstrators gather in front of the Blaine House, the governor's mansion, Monday, April 20, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. Maine now has 835 cases of coronavirus with a total of 35 deaths.

Anti-stay-at-home demonstrators gather in front of the Blaine House, the governor's mansion, Monday, April 20, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. Maine now has 835 cases of coronavirus with a total of 35 deaths. (AP)

The protests were organized by Republican state lawmaker Rep. Chris Johansen, who told the Portland Press Herald Friday that he wanted Mills to ease some restrictions she had placed on nonessential businesses.

That same day, two Facebook groups, “Re-Open Main” and “Mainers Against Excessive Quarantine,” were created. Both pages announced the protests planned for Monday. 

An anonymous press release sent out by the groups lambasted the governor’s stay-at-home order, the Portland Press Herald reported.

“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny,” the press release stated.

Both groups also called for Maine’s restrictions to be curtailed on May 1. Last week, Mills signed a proclamation that extended Maine’s state of emergency through May 15 – given her the authority to extend the stay-at-home order if necessary, Portland’s Fox 23 reported.

GOVERNORS FACE TOUGH DECISIONS AS CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWNS SET TO EXPIRE BY MAY 1

“I wish this proclamation was not necessary, but the continued spread of the virus demands a sustained response by the State,” Governor Mills said. “There will be difficult days and weeks ahead, but I am confident that Maine people will continue to step up to meet this challenge, just as we have in the past, and together we will get through this. For now, I continue to urge Maine people to do their part and stay apart. This is the best way we will defeat this virus and protect the state we all know and love.”

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Monday’s protests in Maine come amid similar demonstrations across the United States by mostly conservative groups and supporters of President Trump. Protests have been staged at statehouses around the country, including California, Michigan and Virginia.

Fox News’ Robert Gearty contributed to this report.