There may have been hundreds or there may have been over 1,000 people who took part in an Anchorage act of civil disobedience, as citizens in their private and business vehicles rolled from the Loussac Library in midtown, through downtown Anchorage to protest the extended business closures mandated by the government.
It was hard to count because some vehicles had one person, while others had a whole family, plus the dog. But this writer counted more than 300 vehicles leaving the Loussac Library for a roll by City Hall and it’s our guesstimate that the crowd was close to 900.
Organizers of “Open Alaska” said the social media group grew from just a handful of concerned Alaskans to more than 3,300 on Facebook in less than a week.
Today’s protest started out with a welcome by Bernadette Wilson, owner of Denali Disposal, who used a bullhorn to thank attendees and remind them to obey all traffic laws. A prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance were observed, and then Wilson announced, “Start your engines!” Her garbage truck, polished to perfection, was the lead vehicle.
By the time the procession reached 7th street downtown, there were still dozens of cars streaming into the parking lot at Loussac, making it about a 2.6-mile long parade.
As the cars drove by City Hall, drivers leaned on their horns and waved flags. They rolled through downtown for about two hours, only encountering one reckless counter-protester who started weaving his car dangerously through traffic. That man was pulled over by police. The Open Alaska drivers remained lawful and many wore face coverings as a precaution.
Police were assigned to the area and about a half dozen were observed, but took no action against what was technically, an illegal outing. Anchorage Police were simply there to keep the peace.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz was hosting a Facebook Live event to discuss when he will allow people to go back to work.
“I want to reiterate what we are doing is driven by data,” Berkowitz said, clarifying that he feels the city is in a solid enough place to allow easing of some restrictions by Monday. “None of the metrics that we are looking at are in a red zone,” he said. “They are in a green and yellow zones.”
In a previous press conference this week, the mayor had indicated that Anchorage could stay locked down for as long as 42 days.
Today, Berkowitz went to great length to clarify that he intends to move more quickly, although he said because Anchorage has to medically welcome patients from all over the state, he wanted to “move more deliberately than the state is in terms of opening things up.”