A group including Maryland lawmakers, pastors, and military members filed a lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan after he reportedly threatened to arrest a delegate who planned to speak at a protest on May 2.
Delegate Dan Cox, a Republican in the Maryland House of Delegates, was going to address the crowd at the event, where people were gathered to protest Hogan’s stay-at-home order.
The order, implemented in March to try to slow the spread of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, forced the closure of so-called nonessential businesses and largely restricted people to staying at home.
Cox said he was warned by a senior law enforcement official that Hogan “has his sights on you” and that if Cox attended the protest he might be arrested, according to the lawsuit (pdf). Cox received confirmation that he might be arrested from Hogan’s senior adviser Andrew Cassilly and chief counsel Mike Pedone.
Hogan’s office and the Maryland State Police didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The officials referred to Hogan’s order and said Cox could receive up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Cox with the suit is requesting “immediate relief permitting him to leave his home, speak and attend a political rally in Maryland in his political district and throughout Maryland.”
Other parties to the suit are also requesting relief from the lockdown, including a campground, an amusement park, and a military member.
“On behalf of thousands of Marylanders represented by 18 brave plaintiffs I regrettably had to file suit to seek to rein in the overreaching of the governor’s orders,” Cox said in a statement.
Delegate Neil Parrott, who joined the suit, said in a video statement that the executive branch is violating the Maryland Constitution. Hogan’s order requiring that masks be worn in public is an example, he said.
Hogan responded to the suit on CNN’s “State of the Union” on May 3, saying he was more alarmed with large crowds in the District of Columbia than those that gathered in Salisbury and Frederick.
“Sadly, we had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters,” he said.
Twenty-six patients were confirmed to have died overnight from COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, the state Department of Health stated on May 3. Four others were described as probable COVID-19 deaths.
Pictures and video footage from the protests showed dozens of people rallying.
“Look, we’re very anxious to get our state reopened in a safe way as soon as we possibly can, because people are getting frustrated, and they’ve been inside their homes,” Hogan said.
“Unfortunately, the pressure is to do it in a not safe way, and that’s something we’re very concerned about.”
Hogan, a Republican, is one of a dwindling number of governors who have not set a date that they will or hope to allow reopening to start. Dozens of governors across the country have loosened harsh restrictions to let some businesses restart.
The state has seen about 1,000 new confirmed CCP virus cases each day, according to state officials. As of May 4, 1,649 people were hospitalized with the illness, including 563 in intensive care.
Nearly 1,700 patients have been released from isolation in the state, which has 26,408 confirmed cases.
The protests were led by a group called Reopen Maryland. Protesters told WMDT they believe all businesses are essential and asked for more transparency around the harsh orders.
“We’re asking for transparency in the models that he uses; we want to know the data and the decisions that he’s using and other things that he didn’t consider,” said Tim Walters, co-founder of the group.