Sarah Hillman (from left), Madison Elmer and Shelby Lemke protest Gov. Tony Evers’ extension of the Safer-at-Home order during a ReOpen Burlington rally Saturday along Milwaukee Avenue. (Photo by Jason Arndt)

But mayor says city won’t defy governor’s order

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Some motorists honked in support while others flashed obscene gestures at demonstrators demanding the state re-open the economy Saturday along Milwaukee Avenue in Burlington.

The demonstration, or rally, called Re-Open Burlington was in opposition to Gov. Tony Evers extension of the Safer-at-Home order, which will expire May 26, pending a decision by the State Supreme Court.

The City of Burlington Police Department did not issue any citations as a result of the relatively peaceful protest Saturday.

Police Chief Mark Anderson said on Tuesday the decision hinged on the first amendment with officers using discretion in balancing the rights.

“The Burlington Police Department used discretion in balancing the rights and civil liberties of our citizens with the enforcement of the Safer-at-Home order,” he said, adding his department emphasizes protecting constitutional rights and civil rights.

“We understand and respect the opinions of all our citizens, and urge everyone to continue to be responsible in their actions to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, some children were observed using playground equipment at Echo Park, which violates the Safer-at-Home order.

A Burlington police officer on scene reported about 200 people attended Saturday’s rally.

Supporting businesses

Madison Elmer, of Walworth County, said she showed up to support area businesses and people looking for fewer restrictions.

“We just want to get on with our lives and reopen Wisconsin and get our businesses up and running,” said Elmer, who has reportedly been a key figure in other protests across the state.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Elmer served as organizer of a rally held in Madison, which was denied a permit but still went off as scheduled.

Elmer, meanwhile, told the State Journal in mid April people can desire fewer restrictions and still show concern for others who are getting ill from COVID-19.

“It’s OK to be concerned about people getting sick from a virus,” she said.

When asked about the contagious nature of the virus, she said on Saturday citizens do not have to patronize businesses if they are uncomfortable.

“You don’t have to go out and shop at these businesses if you don’t feel comfortable, but the rest of us would like to,” she said.

City declines to join protest

Burlington Mayor Jeanie Hefty acknowledged businesses are struggling, but said safety of citizens is paramount.

“As your Mayor, I want to open Burlington as soon as possible, and I recognize the financial struggle that the citizens and businesses in our community are going through,” she said. “What I do know, though, is that the health and safety of all of our citizens is the paramount concern.”

Hefty urged protesters to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and the use of masks in public.

To read the entire story and see additional photos from the protest see Thursday’s edition of the Burlington Standard Press.