AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — As more sectors of the Texas economy reopened from the freeze of the coronavirus pandemic, a few dozen anti-government demonstrators rallied Saturday at the state Capitol to demand that all limitations be lifted.
The “Texas Freedom Rally,” sponsored by the Texas Freedom Coalition, featured speakers who called for the state to remain “open and free” and for an end to what they call the “unconstitutional” policies related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. That illness has struck at least 54,000 Texans as of Saturday, killing at least 1,500 since mid-March, according to state health officials.
There were 1,509 new COVID-19 cases and 26 new coronavirus-related deaths reported since Thursday afternoon alone, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported Saturday. However, the true numbers are likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Nevertheless, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been reopening the state’s economic activity in phases, most recently the limited reopening of bars, bowling alleys, skating rinks and even some strips clubs going into the weekend. The new standards don’t apply yet in El Paso and Amarillo, which have seen a recent increase in coronavirus cases.
But speakers at Saturday’s rally demanded unfettered reopening of all activities. Among the speakers was Dallas hair stylist Shelley Luther, who gained national notoriety when she was jailed for defying Abbott’s initial executive order that barbers, hair stylists and other non-essential businesses close up shop. She demanded that schools be reopened.