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‘Every business is essential’: ReOpen Nevada County hosts rally to open businesses (VIDEO)

Around 100 people attended a Friday rally in the Grass Valley City Hall parking lot to urge for a faster reopening of Nevada County businesses.

Bill Muller, an Army veteran and Nevada City resident, said he desires “freedom.”

“I think it’s getting pretty close to time (to open up),” said Muller, noting that he doesn’t want to be forced to shop at large corporate chains.

Muller, like rally attendee Marcia Ross of Grass Valley, said that while businesses should open up, sick people should remain sheltered in place.

“Every business is essential,” said Ross, who also said she was upset that her son is not able to get married at this time, added that in this area “the virus is kind of a joke.”

Many flags were apparent at the rally, including two of the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, a “New California” flag as well as a California state flag turned upside down. Signs, too, were held by attendees that read “Democracy Now No Communism,” “USA before China and Mexico” and “Join the Expendables, Dead GOP Seniors for Freedom.”

The event’s organizer, Eric Christen — whose group ReOpen Nevada County sponsored the rally — said attendees held a range of political affiliations and opinions as some wanted the reopen transition to move faster than others.

Before the rally, Christen said there was no political affiliation tied to the event or the group, and that no flags — other than the American one — would be waved by rally attendees. Christen said attendees would maintain physical distancing.

There appeared to be little concern, and during speeches little caution, for physical distancing. A few people wore masks except for those in the media, as well as U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who at times covered his face with one.

Originally in favor of the rally, the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce rescinded its support for the event via an email statement Friday morning. The chamber said it changed course, in part, because two members of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors — Sue Hoek and Dan Miller — had planned to speak at the rally before withdrawing.

Over 500 comments were made on a post at the Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page, with some favorable but a majority of dissenting voices regarding the event.

“I decided not to speak,” Miller said. “I believe the intended message of the organizers was to support the opening of all local businesses as soon as possible. That message was hijacked by people who interpreted that to be, open all businesses in violation of the governor’s order and phased plan to reopen.”

But those opposed to the rally also misconstrued the broader issue, wrote Miller.

“The people who oppose the rally have also politicized the event and created a lot of confusion, so the effectiveness of the rally two support local businesses has been lost,” he wrote. “With that in mind, I decided not to speak and add to an already divisive situation.”

While Miller said he sympathized with people concerned for struggling businesses, he also offered concern for the state, which he said has never dealt with anything like this before.

“It is a slow process, but in times like this it becomes the responsibility of the elected officials to try and slow the people down but try and speed the government up.”

Hoek, Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout and Grass Valley Downtown Association Executive Director Marni Marshall could not be reached for comment Friday.

Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Robin Davies said in an email there were a few factors that led to the organization rescinding its support for the rally.

“The withdrawal of participation by the supervisors diminished the dynamic for chamber support, and in concert with other concerns, the chamber board made the decision to reverse its position and rescinded support,” she wrote.


Various people — including business owners, rally organizers, a county school employee and LaMalfa — spoke Friday.

LaMalfa suggested a “one-size fits all” approach does not apply to the northern state, and that restrictions can be lighter in this area compared to Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.

The congressman also begrudged the trillions of dollars in debt accrued due to the recent federal stimulus packages, but made no mention of his voting for the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which added $779 billion to the federal debt. Later at the rally, LaMalfa said the 2017 legislation was “a tax cut for everybody” and that the economy fared well thereafter.

Prior to the rally, Christen said the event did not necessitate a permit, but an email from Grass Valley Police Lt. Joe Matteoni said while he did not have time to review the permit submitted May 15 by ReOpen Nevada County until Friday, its “application was incomplete in that it was lacking insurance.”

At the rally, Christen disputed the virus’ lethality and said, “We need to make sure that our county (leaders are) standing up for our county.”

Sarah Hooley, owner of Grass Valley’s Center of Movement, said in a speech that she always voted Democrat and regrets voting for Gov. Gavin Newsom, noting she’s transitioned to anarchism and is opposed to the phased lockdown approach.

“This virus is causing suffering in many ways and I pray and send love to those who’ve lost a loved one to this virus, and I do not discount or negate their experience,” she said. “I simply ask we widen our lens and not forget about those that are also suffering as a result of the mitigation strategies and these stupid lockdowns!”

Before the speeches, a handful of counter protestors showed up across the street from City Hall.

The Board of Supervisors issued a statement Friday afternoon, noting they are trying to move residents through all stages of reopening the economy.

“Our community has done a great job helping to keep transmission low and our businesses have done a great job making modifications that fit within the guidelines of safe reopening plans,” the statement reads. “We will continue to be in compliance with all state and federal laws to ensure public safety and encourage everyone to support each other as we can.”

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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