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Dozens of protesters rally in Prineville, call on governor to let businesses reopen

Business owners, residents gather in front of Norm's Extreme Fitness Center

PRINEVILLE, Ore (KTVZ) -- Dozens of protesters gathered Saturday in front of a closed gym in downtown Prineville, rallying to call for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to let all businesses reopen, as large retailers have been since the pandemic began.

Organizer and “People's Rights” group member Chuck Banks said he's not happy about the continued restrictions.

“The way the has been handled by our governor is, quite frankly, ridiculous,” Banks said.

Participants in the protest, held in front of Norm's Extreme Fitness Center on Third Street, included “People's Rights” group members, business owners and other Prineville residents. 

Gym owner Norman Smith said he supported and encouraged the rally.

“We’re here in support of all businesses -- not just our business, but we want to see Oregon open up across the board,” Smith said.

The protesters called on the state to let businesses such as restaurants, bars and gyms fully open.

Smith said he feels it is unfair that larger retail or grocery stores can stay open for all these months, yet theirs can’t.

“It’s not fair for one business to be open and anther business to be closed," he said. "All businesses should be open.”

Fellow business owner and Prineville resident Tonya Thomas said she wants restaurants to be open, but is okay with following some guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Honestly, I can’t wait for the day that we don’t have to wear a mask," she said. "But if we have to wear a mask, then that’s fine.” 

“We just need to open," she said. "If they can follow the rules, then let’s just do it. Because I don’t see why some are and some aren’t.”

Banks said he feels that businesses should be able to open and choose whether or not to follow certain guidelines, such as wearing masks.

“I’m 75 years old," he said. "I’m in that critical scenario, myself personally. I have some underlying conditions. But you don’t see me wearing a mask, because I don’t believe the danger to me is any more than the flu, which causes a lot of deaths too.” 

Crook County, as well as Deschutes and Jefferson counties, are among 26 across Oregon that remain in the state's "Extreme Risk” category, due to infection rates and case counts, which prohibits indoor dining and fitness center use.

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.

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