RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Raleigh Police Department has released a statement in regards to a tweet published by the force’s official Twitter account that said “protesting a non-essential activity.”
The tweet was published in the final minutes of a protest near the General Assembly Monday afternoon.
Demonstrators had been at the scene for a few hours – demanding that North Carolina businesses reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a series of executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Orders 118 and 120 ordered some businesses to close and made all restaurants stop dine-in service.
Since, more than 500,000 have filed for unemployment benefits in North Carolina.
On March 27, Cooper signed Executive Order 121 – which orders North Carolinians to stay at home in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
On Monday, demonstrators gathered outside the General Assembly holding signs reading “Reopen NC,” “Freedom is not free,” and “#ReopenNC #Tyranny.”
Raleigh police responded and began to warn the demonstrators that they were in violation of EO 121 – which in part bans gatherings of more than 10 people.
Around 12:20 p.m., officers used a bullhorn to warn the demonstrators that they could be arrested for being in violation of Cooper’s order.
At 12:29 p.m., Raleigh police’s official Twitter account tweeted “The protestors are in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order and have been asked to leave. #ReopenNC.”
Many went to the vehicles where they blared their car horns non-stop. Some began to drive around the block while laying on their car horns.
Just after 12:30 p.m., Raleigh officers could be seen leading a woman away in handcuffs.
Raleigh police said State Capitol Police made the arrest of the woman, 51-year-old Monica Faith Ussery. She was charged with violating an executive order.
At 1:20 p.m., the Department tweeted that “Protesting is a non-essential activity” in response to the question of what part of EO 121 the demonstrators were violating.
The tweet, among others by the Department in reference to the protest, received harsh backlash.
In response, Raleigh police released a statement that said its goal is to keep residents safe by reminding them to adhere to Wake County’s stay-at-home order as well as Cooper’s executive orders.
“In these unprecedented times and unusual circumstances, both the Governor and the County have declared a state of emergency. Under these current and temporary declarations, protesting is not listed as an essential function,” the statement read.
Raleigh police said Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman would be the one to decides “charging language for failure to adhere to the Governor’s Orders and the Wake County Proclamation, when charging is appropriate, and what charges individuals may face for violating either one of these orders.”
The statement said Raleigh officers are bound to carry out the regulations handed down by the executive orders and the county’s proclamation.
“But more important is the health and wellness of all who live in our community, including the officers who must engage in circumstances such as these. We simply want everyone to be safe during this very serious public health crisis,” the statement read.