Just two short weeks ago, Levar Stoney, the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, announced businesses that had prepped for reopening in the city must remain closed after all, citing COVID fears and saying the city must protect minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the deadly coronavirus.
Stoney’s announcement came just hours before many businesses were set to reopen their doors after weeks of being closed up. Stores that had already rebooked clients and called back their employees had to halt those plans in their tracks and reserve course, with almost no time to spare. Already struggling restaurant owners who had spent the last of their savings buying food in preparation for reopening were told to donate it to the needy, and that the city would, at some point, reimburse their costs (the city set aside $50,000 for that effort – that may or may not be enough).
That was on May 14.
Yesterday, on the afternoon of June 2, Stoney – that same mayor – stood in a massive crowd of protesters, within spitting distance of hundreds of other people, without a mask (which he's mandated in all public spaces, by the way), shouting into a bullhorn which he then passed around the crowd.
For racial justice.
After handing the mic off to multiple people -- none of whom were wearing gloves or wiping the device down between passes -- Stoney joined the crowd on part of their march, hugging residents as though there weren't a pandemic sweeping the nation.
Here's Stoney screaming in the bullhorn, sans facial covering.
“We are not who we thought we were.” @LevarStoney shouts over the crowd pic.twitter.com/VZLQSSB7bf— Katy Evans (@KBurnellEvans) June 2, 2020
Here he is hugging a protester, who is also mask-less.
Before @LevarStoney left his presser a concerned citizen expressed how important it is for him to be present at peaceful protests. @CBS6 pic.twitter.com/BQpVFfkLQi— Gabrielle Harmon (@_GabbyHarmonTV) May 31, 2020
Here he is walking with protesters, many of whom aren't wearing masks and none of whom are making an effort to stay "socially distant."
And we’re back in Richmond.— BK (@BradKutner) June 2, 2020
Protestors have gathered.
Mayor @LevarStoney is here. (Blue polo, rw&b mask)
They’re working with @RichmondPolice to confirm a route. @CourthouseNews pic.twitter.com/87tgNGztPr
Here are his full remarks, just before he begins passing the bullhorn back and forth amid strangers.
It’s funny how the coronavirus, a pandemic smart enough to know the difference between a packed Walmart and a church, has now decided to take the day off to allow tens of thousands of people to pack into our city streets to protest the police. The same virus that was so deadly that Stoney had to throw the brakes on his city’s reopening plan, further shattering businesses and costing residents their livelihoods, is now such a minor inconvenience that he feels safe weaving throughout a mass of sweaty bodies, hugging strangers who’ve been breathing all over one another for hours.
The same virus that was so dangerous, so contagious, that hair stylists were being thrown in jail for booking clients, and Americans protesting unconstitutional shutdown measures were branded “Grandma killers” by left-wing politicians and the liberal media, is now so tame it’s not even worth considering before you pick up your cardboard sign and head off to loot the local Target.
While businesses remain closed, while restaurants struggle to pay their employees with only half their outdoor dining available to the public, while churches try desperately to adhere to capacity limits and millions of obedient Americans stand on “socially distanced” stickers plastered to the grocery store floor, mayors of major cities pack in like cattle with the very crowds they were telling us only days ago were cesspools for disease and death.
If the continued coronavirus shutdown were a ruse by power hungry officials looking to save face after what will likely go down as the most massive overreaction in history, then the protests of the past few days has ripped the curtain off that wizard. And if there fails to be a massive spike in COVID cases following this past week’s riots, protests and general chaos, city officials like Stoney will have no further standing whatsoever to mandate that peaceful, law-abiding citizens keep six feet apart and wear masks while “socially distancing” at their local diner.
The gig is up. It’s past time to fully reopen. And now, there’s no excuse not to.