Protestors circle Anchorage City Hall as second ‘hunker down’ order looms

A convoy of cars and trucks circled Anchorage City Hall Monday to protest the latest emergency...
A convoy of cars and trucks circled Anchorage City Hall Monday to protest the latest emergency order.(Matt Leseman)
Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 9:02 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage City Hall saw a large group of cars and trucks circling the streets around the building Monday, as protestors came out to voice their objections to the latest emergency order from Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson. The convoy drove the streets of downtown Anchorage while waving flags, holding signs and honking their horns as they drove past City Hall.

The order, EO-16, shuts down bars and restaurants to in-person dining, limits gatherings and places many other restrictions on different kinds of businesses starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Many who came out voiced major concerns over how this will impact local businesses.

“For some of us it’s gonna be the last straw, I really think that,” said Russ Reno, an Anchorage business owner. “I’ve had a lot of my friends going ‘I don’t know if I can do this again,’ If they close us again, we may not be able to come out of it.”

Reno argued that the order was too broad and unnecessarily punishes businesses that have worked to keep people safe by following health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts. He added that he’s seen many other businesses not following those guidelines.

“I think the city should be shutting down those businesses, not the ones that are working so hard and putting so much money out there to make sure that you and I are safe, and that their guests are safe and their clients are safe,” Reno said.

Other protestors who came out felt that all of the restrictions, targetted or not, represented a government overreach and advocated for a full reopening of the city.

“We cannot make the solution to COVID be worse than COVID,” said Benjamin Heston, who described himself as a Libertarian and a protestor. He added that he felt the limits on gathering sizes in the order are a violation of the freedom of assembly in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Alongside concern for businesses, Heston and others participating argued the municipality should take an approach that allows more for individuals to make personal decisions over the preventative measures they take during the pandemic.

“Obviously, I’m in the gray-haired range, and I make good decisions about where I go and what I do,” said Kristine Gugel, a registered nurse at the protest. “And I don’t want to see younger business owners, who are getting started- I don’t want to see any business owners who can do things sensibly be denied the right to do so.”

Gugel and Heston both advocated for an approach to the pandemic where those who have contracted the virus and recovered return to the workforce, arguing they would be immune to further exposure. However, health officials have raised concerns over that approach as documented cases of people contracting the disease multiple times come out.

“We were hoping that wasn’t the case,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, at a Nov. 22 Zoom meeting. “We don’t know how long your immunity lasts, and if you really get full immunity or not.”

How the municipality moves forward with the latest emergency order remains to be seen. The Anchorage Assembly has the power to end it early, as does the acting mayor. Otherwise, it’s set to end at 8 a.m. Jan 1, 2021.

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