Health

Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Kentucky State Capitol on Sunday to oppose Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus restrictions, and claimed his vaccination goals amounted to a mandate.

When COVID-19 took hold in Kentucky last year, Beshear implemented a number of public safety restrictions, including a mask mandate and capacity limits at businesses. But those opposed to the restrictions said they’re “tyrannical,” and called on Beshear to “open Kentucky” during Sunday’s protest.

Demonstrators, of which there were about 300, carried signs critical of the coronavirus response and chanted appropriated versions of slogans from other movements, such as “my body, my choice,” and “small business lives matter.”

“Your individual rights do not get given up just because mob rule says you need to,” said Andrew Cooperrider, who led the protest. “And we’re not going to throw away hundreds of years of freedoms and success built upon those rights, just because some virus came along and says you now have to.”

John Boyle

Protestors in Frankfort oppose Gov. Andy Beshear’s anti-coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, April 18, 2021.

Sunday’s protest wasn’t the first organized by Cooperrider. He has been involved in the opposition movement since late 2020, when his Lexington-based coffee shop Brewed continued to operate without adhering to indoor dining restrictions. A judge later ordered the shop to stop serving customers.

Cooperrider was also one of the petitioners who called for Beshear’s impeachment in January. He criticized state lawmakers, including the Republican majority, for not acting to remove the governor.

“There’s a reason why there’s none of them here today,” Cooperrider said. “They don’t care about you. They don’t care about what you’re standing for. They have failed us.”

Last week, Beshear said he would lift some restrictions once 2.5 million Kentuckians have received at least a first dose of a vaccine. As of Sunday, more than 1.6 million had gotten a first shot.

Beshear said last week he’s confident the goal he set can be reached, but it could take up to six weeks. Cooperrider said he’ll continue to organize protests to oppose the restrictions and asked other protesters to engage in “civil disobedience.”

“If a private business owner asks you to wear masks, leave,” he said. “If you see a person with a mask below their nose, tell them to take it off.”

Anti-restriction protesters said they will gather at the Capitol again on May 2.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.