Protesters pressing for reopening encircle Philly City Hall

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Protesters calling for Mayor Jim Kenney to allow Philadelphia businesses to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic circled their cars around City Hall Friday.

It was a light turnout, about 15 or so drivers honking their horns while driving laps around City Hall, many waving American flags and Trump flags.

Maureen Fratantoni of South Philadelphia joined to oppose a planned hike in property taxes meant to offset some city revenue lost to the pandemic shutdown. She is also upset that the shutdown has postponed the primary election until June 2.

“They need to open responsibly, I get that. But they also need to get things going,” said Fratantoni. “Start opening things up. It’s not good for people to be cooped up in their homes.”

There were also anti-vaccination demonstrators joining those pushing for reopening.

Fratantoni, who was waving a small American flag out the window of her Hummer, was temporarily blocked by Samantha Goldman, who parked her Prius across traffic lanes. Goldman and others from the counter-protest group Refuse Fascism used their cars to block 15th Street while holding a banner that read “Reopen = Death.”

“This callous disregard for both science and humanity needs to be opposed,” said Goldman, pointing out that COVID-19 has been hitting poorer people and people of color disproportionately harder. “There’s a battle right now between science and mobilized ignorance. This can’t go unopposed.”

There were a few counter-protest groups engaging with motorists around City Hall, but they never coalesced into a significant crowd. The protests caused minimal disruptions downtown, briefly stopping the flow of traffic a few times around City Hall.

In his daily COVID-19 briefing from Harrisburg, Gov. Tom Wolf acknowledged the Philadelphia protest. “I understand the frustration. I share that frustration. It’s a frustrating virus, it’s sneaky,” he said. “But we can’t let that frustration let us ignore that it’s out there”

Wolf has allowed 24 counties to move into the so-called yellow phase of reopening. Today he announced 13 more counties may reopen Friday, May 15, with some restrictions in accordance with the yellow phase. That makes most of the western and northern parts of Pennsylvania in a reopening mode.

Philadelphia and most of the southeast, however, continues to be the hot spot for coronavirus infections and deaths. The region does not yet have a timeline for reopening.

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