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People carried signs critical of Gov. Ralph Northam and other elected Democrats to the "Reopen Prince William County" rally held on the lawn of the Old Courthouse in Manassas Saturday, May 23.

Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, former state delegate Rich Anderson and several Republican candidates for office joined about 120 people in a “Reopen Prince William County” rally Saturday afternoon outside the Old Courthouse in Manassas.

The rally was organized by Christopher Lee and Zach McDonald, two Prince William County residents who are members of a local Facebook page by the same name. Attendees brought American flags and Trump 2020 flags and carried homemade signs with slogans such as “Flatten the curve of ignorance” and “the media is the virus, tired of the lies.”

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Some participants in Saturday's "Reopen Prince William County" brought homemade flags critical of Democratic elected officials and the media.  

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A "Reopen Prince William County" rally drew about 120 people to the lawn outside the Old Courthouse in Manassas Saturday. 

Speakers included Lawson and Anderson as well as Tom Speciale, a Woodbridge resident vying for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Mark Warner (D) in November, as well as Jeff Dove and Aliscia Andrews, both candidates for the Republican nomination to unseat Rep. Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s 10th District.

Lee said the Reopen Prince William County group has no direct ties to the Republican Party, but that he had invited GOP candidates and local elected officials to participate.

“You could say there are people in the Republican Party who share our views,” Lee said in an interview prior to the event.

Only three people in the crowd wore face masks, and social distancing did not seem a high priority. Several people stood shoulder-to-shoulder and greeted each other with handshakes and hugs.

Speakers were critical of Gov. Ralph Northam’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, saying the outgoing shutdown has hurt businesses and harmed the community. They also made light of Northam’s executive order calling for social distancing and warned that any new order to require Virginians to wear masks – something the governor hinted at Friday – would amount to government overreach. 

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Chris Concannon, of Warrenton, led a "Reopen Fauquier County" rally May 9. He was one of the first speakers at Saturday's "Reopen Prince William County" rally.

Chris Concannon, who lives in Warrenton and organized the May 9 “Reopen Fauquier County” rally, took the microphone to read from Northam’s Executive Order 55. When Concannon came to the part that says people “must at all times maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from any other person” unless they live in the same household, Concannon turned toward the crowd and said, “Look at us now!” to laughs and applause.  

“We’re all family!” someone shouted from the crowd.

“Let’s just call ourselves family. Let’s just call ourselves one big family right now,” Concannon said.

Concannon went on to say the state’s coronavirus restrictions had “stripped” away people’s livelihoods and “flushed the economy down the toilet.”

He then downplayed the seriousness of the virus, calling it “a mild, seasonal influenza,” and inaccurately stated that “53” Prince William County residents had so far died from COVID-19.

As of Saturday, 95 local residents had died of COVID-19, including 84 residents of Prince William County, seven in Manassas and four in Manassas Park, according to the Virginia Department of Health. 

Jeanine Lawson at May 24 Reopen Prince William County rally

Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, encourages participants of Saturday's "Reopen Prince William County" rally, saying: “Keep growing your army. I am here to help you. I love freedom; you love freedom.”

Lawson, R-Brentsville, was also critical of Northam during her speech, saying: “What is going on with this governor is ridiculous,” and calling him “indecisive.”

Lawson then encouraged the crowd to keep up their fight against pandemic restrictions. Much of Virginia entered phase one of the state’s three reopening phases on Friday, May 15, but Northern Virginia, the City of Richmond and Accomack County, which have had higher numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths than the rest of the state, will remain in phase zero until at least 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 28. 

“Keep growing your army. I am here to help you. I love freedom; you love freedom,” Lawson told the crowd. 

“Let’s fight this and debunk all the lies that are coming out of the leftists over this virus. We’ve had enough. It’s time to reopen this economy. Get dads and moms back to work to feed their kids. All we’re asking for is some reason and consistency. I think we can get that done,” she added.

Like the other speakers, Lawson did not wear a mask to the rally. When asked if she objects to the idea of a statewide mask rule, she said: “I’m OK with people making that decision for themselves.”

Prince William County sheriff’s deputies monitored the rally. Organizers met with Sheriff Glen Hill’s staff before the event and were not required to get a temporary activity permit because the rally was not expected to block roadways or sidewalks, said Sherrie Johnson, Prince William County’s spokeswoman.

“This is expected to be a peaceful political rally similar to ones conducted in neighboring jurisdictions,” Johnson said in an email. “It is important to note that anyone has the First Amendment right to peacefully demonstrate, which is why no permit is required for this event.”

Anderson: ‘It’s vital that we resist’

Anderson, also a Republican, lost his 51st District delegate seat to Del. Hala Ayala (D) in 2017 and unsuccessfully challenged her again in 2019. Now he’s running for chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, a contest that’s expected to take place in the coming months.

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Rich Anderson, a former state delegate now running for chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, called Gov. Ralph Northam "authoritarian" during Saturday's "Reopen Prince  William County" rally in Manassas.

During his speech at the rally, Anderson downplayed COVID-19, saying it’s caused “roughly 4,000 hospitalizations” in the commonwealth. “And yet, that compares to roughly 850,000 hospitalizations each year, and so it is an overstated case,” Anderson added.

As of Saturday, COVID-19 had so far killed 1,159 Virginians and nearly 100,000 people across the U.S. Still, Anderson said it’s the government restrictions in response to the virus that have “levied a devastating human toll on people,” saying they have been “a calamity of gargantuan proportions.”

“So what must we do?” he continued. “It is time to protect against these domestic enemies of our Constitution … It is vital that we resist. It is an American principle. It is our American heritage and our American legacy. And don’t ever miss the fact that the other side has formalized a vicious resistance movement that has denied you your civil liberties.”

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Some participants brought homemade signs to Saturday's "Reopen Prince William County" rally, which drew about 120 people to the lawn outside the Old Courthouse in Manassas. 

Anderson was also critical of Northam, saying he is “leading as an authoritarian” who has “seized unprecedented power that is not granted by the Constitution.”

Referring to news that Northam might impose a mask order on Tuesday, Anderson called the idea “excessive” and “intrusive.” 

“I believe that this coronavirus does present a threat, and we therefore need to protect against it; but reasonable protections that do not trample the Constitution and individual liberties of liberty-loving Virginia,” he said.

Speciale on masks: ‘None of the science supports any of it’

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Tom Speciale, a Woodbridge resident who is candidate for the Republican nomination to run against U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) in November, speaks during Saturday's "Reopen Prince William County" rally as a participant wearing a handgun tucked into his waistband listens.

The loss of civil liberties as a result of Northam’s executive orders, which speakers said are “unconstitutional,” was a major theme of the event. Speciale, an Army reservist, Woodbridge resident and a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, said Virginians face “an enemy of our liberty.”

“They are the people who will tell you -- and terrify you -- that you must wear a mask to protect yourself from an invisible virus, and none of the science supports any of it,” Speciale said. “But they will use it as a tool of power because that’s what they’re about. They’re about power.”

In response, people in the crowd called out: “Yes!” and “That’s right!”

“The First Amendment, it says you cannot tell us to stay home. You cannot tell us to wear a mask. You cannot tell us to bankrupt our businesses,” Speciale added.

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Some participants in Saturday's "Reopen Prince William County" rally brought homemade signs to criticize pandemic restrictions. 

After initially recommending against them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on April 3 that people wear cloth face coverings or masks when out in public. On its website, the CDC says face coverings “provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.” The novel coronavirus is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets and can be spread through people carrying the virus without experiencing symptoms.

Speciale faces two opponents in the June 23 primary: Alissa Baldwin, a Prince William County native who is now a civics and economics teacher in Nottoway County public schools, and Daniel Gade, an Alexandria resident, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and amputee who was injured in the Iraq War.

Tim Parrish, who said he is running to be the next chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee, said the pandemic restrictions are “unconstitutional” and “a direct threat to our liberty.”

“You told us to flatten the curve and we crushed it. You told us to wash our hands and sanitize our services, and we bought every product on the shelf to do just that,” Parrish said. “We kept our end of the deal. We’ve done our part. The only question that remains is, when will you do yours?”

Blogger encourages ‘civil disobedience’

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Prince William County resident, blogger and activist Greg Letiecq encourages participants at a "Reopen Prince William County" rally to "engage in acts of civil disobedience" to protest pandemic restrictions.

Local conservative blogger Greg Letiecq told the crowd that he’d been cited with a no trespassing notice by a Prince William County Park Ranger earlier this week after he took down the caution tape surrounding county-owned playgrounds near his Manassas-area home.

Letiecq called the playgrounds’ closure “the height of government stupidity,” and he urged other rally-goers to follow his lead and remove the tape from other county play structures.

“My call is for you to go out there and pick this up and cut that stupid caution tape off of all the playgrounds,” Letiecq said. “ … I want people to go and take deliberate action to engage in civil disobedience, and this is the closest opportunity you have. Because if we just sit back on social media, they will continue to ignore us. If we revolt, they cannot.”

Prince William County’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism closed the county’s 50 playgrounds March 19 in response to the state’s social distancing guidelines, which aimed to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Brent Heavner, spokesman for the department, confirmed that Letiecq had been issued a “no trespass” notice on Monday, May 17. Heavner said the parks department replaced the caution tape by the afternoon of Sunday, May 16, shortly after Letiecq removed it.

Jack Inge, of Dale City, said he came to the rally to join others in rallying against the state’s restrictions on businesses, which he said are at great risk by the ongoing coronavirus shutdown.

“I feel our freedoms are being taken away from us by not seeing our businesses being able to open," Inge said. "And I believe that we have got to make a decision as to whether we want to support what the governor is saying -- to wear a mask and to stay in our homes and just not do anything -- or are we going to let our country, our businesses go under?” 

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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(9) comments

Jim McCarthy

Sadly, while one commenter on this thread recognized pain opens eyes, there was a failure to acknowledge that death closes those very same eyes. The intellectually bankrupt posturing for theoretical freedoms has met its match in COVID-19. If y'all live through the pandemic, you will enjoy your freedoms again. Stop your inane tactics to infect others. Learn to cooperate and save lives including those in your family..

Firestorm

I have never seen such stupidity, by people who strut around like they are intelligent. Where is the civic responsibility? I might expect stupidity from bloggers and rabble-rousers but elected officials need to be setting a better example. I am so disappointed.

Tom Fitzpatrick

Memorial Day Weekend.

When we remember and honor those who gave all to give us liberty.

We must ask ourselves, "What would those who gave all for us, think of us who gave it all up, without a whimper, let alone a fight?"

Most lost their courage long ago. Now, they've lost their sense of shame, too.

Brad

And on Memorial Day, our illustrious "leader" takes time out from golfing to insult a Marine Corps veteran. What class.

https://triblive.com/news/politics-election/on-memorial-day-trump-insults-marines-corps-veteran-conor-lamb-by-calling-him-american-fraud/

Marty

So our hypocritical and inept Governor Northam was seen hanging out at Virginia Beach with no mask and standing VERY VERY VERY close to several people. What a fraud!

InsideCommenter

Bill Bolling, and Frank Wagner were both decent moderate candidates who could have actually won statewide in 2013 and 2017 respectively.

Tom Fitzpatrick

To win office, one must first win nominations, or launch an independent campaign.

If one cannot successfully navigate the corrupt electoral process, one cannot expect to survive let alone succeed the much more corrupt and immeasurably larger Deep State once in office.

Fighters fight.

If the Democrats have shown us anything of value, it is that even evil people acting as empty vessels for evil agendas can succeed if they successfully marshal their forces, manage their message, and ruthlessly pursue those agendas, and punish or discard anyone who detracts from those agendas.

Moderation has been the enemy of the conservative movement, as we try to win by a different set of rules than those utilized by the Left.

Time to drop the pretense, and the gloves.

Fighters fight. Can't win without fighting. Trump, and Corey, understood that. Their supporters understand that. And, after the tragedy of the massive fraud perpetrated upon the Nation and the World, my hope, and our only hope, is that it has opened the eyes of more people to these simple truths. Pain is a great eye opener.

InsideCommenter

Extremist*

InsideCommenter

Republicans are absolute idiots, they keep on going for more and more extremists candidates like Stewart and Amanda Chase who is going to run for Governor in 2021, who end up losing by large margins statewide. Their insistence on conventions and obsession with undocumented immigrants is what lead them to this deep rabbit hole they're in.

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