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Demonstrators call on governor to ‘reopen’ NM

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Terri and Floyd Chrisman, from Lea County, stop briefly during a drive-by protest outside the Roundhouse on Monday. The protest, consisting of around 15 vehicles, was for the governor to reopen the businesses in the state that have been closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – “Operation Gridlock” may not have achieved gridlock on what these days are lightly traveled streets in Santa Fe. But people in about 15 vehicles that circled the Capitol and the city’s historic Plaza honking horns and shouting out windows did manage to get their message across to some people along the way.

“Glad you’re working,” one man shouted to several reporters observing the demonstration from the street in front of the Roundhouse. “We’ve got to get back to work, guys.”

Some of the vehicles had messages written on the windows in shoe polish.

“We are essential,” was one that appeared on more than one vehicle. “No More” and “Reopen New Mexico” were other appeals. “MLG is bad for NM,” said another, referring to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The demonstration was promoted on a Facebook page titled “Operation Gridlock” managed by an Albuquerque woman.

In an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, the governor has ordered the temporary closure of all but “essential” businesses and urged New Mexicans to stay at home, practice social distancing and wear masks when they do go out in public.

But some people say the governor’s order to shut down businesses is an example of government overreach.

After making several laps, some of the vehicles stopped in a parking lot across from the Capitol and spoke with reporters.

“This is no time for her to run for vice president,” Floyd Chrisman said of Lujan Grishman, who was mentioned in a recent Washington Post article as a possible running mate for the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

Chrisman and his wife, Terri, drove from Lovington on Monday morning to attend the demonstration. They said there’s no reason businesses should be shut down in their part of the state. Out of the nearly 2,000 positive tests for COVID-19 reported in New Mexico, just two are in Lea County, where they live.

Chrisman said people can take “common sense” approaches, including social distancing, to curtail the virus, but closing businesses was a step too far.

Others agreed.

“They (businesses) should be opening slowly today,” said Deborah Gowen, who drove up from Bernalillo. “We are adults. We know how to be responsible.”

Alexis Johnson, a Republican candidate for the seat in the 3rd Congressional District, came by the rally pushing a baby carriage. She had her four young children with her, and all were wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from others.

“We need to open up in areas where we have a low risk,” said Johnson, whose family owns a business in the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico. “It’s not the job of the governor to dictate to us how we live.”

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