A lawmaker in Maryland is suing the state’s Governor, Larry Hogan, after he was threatened with arrest for speaking out against the state’s stay-at-home order.
Three Republican state lawmakers are among 18 plaintiffs suing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in federal court, over the constitutionality of the state’s stay-at-home order and the order banning gatherings of more than 10 people.
The lawsuit was filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
One of the lawmakers, Del. Dan Cox, says that he was threatened with arrest on Saturday morning if he spoke at a ReOpen Maryland rally at the Francis Scott Key Mall in Frederick, where the group was starting a road caravan across the state.
In court papers, Cox argues that he was warned by a senior law enforcement official that the “Governor has his sights on you” and that if I attend, ride along and speak at the Reopen Rally, I would potentially be arrested because certain individuals had indicated they may stop cars “and arrest you.”
The suit claims Cox than called Hogan’s senior advisor Andrew Cassilly and Chief Counsel Mike Pedone “that if Del. Cox attends and speaks at the Reopen Rally he may be arrested.”
Cox said he was threatened with arrest for violating the executive order where violators could face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Cox declined comment on Saturday night, but talked about the incident in a Facebook post.
In the post, Cox describes himself as a delegate who, “fought hard in my Judiciary Committee for the Governor’s legislative policies.”
“However, the line of freedom that the Supreme Court has explained is sacred to our American values and our natural liberty, has been crossed. On behalf of 22,000 Marylanders and millions who agree in this State, it’s past time Mr. Governor to lighten the heavy hand of your Executive Orders and stop picking winners and losers, and Reopen Maryland. Marylanders will not stand for continued house arrest and lock-downs and the destruction of our businesses and way of life.”
The suit names Hogan, Health Secretary Bobby Neall, Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips and Maryland State Police Superintendent Col Woodrow “Jerry” Jones as defendants.
Del. Neil Parrott of Washington County and Del. Warren Miller of Carroll and Howard Counties are among the list of plaintiffs, who also include the owner of Adventure Park in New Market, the owner of the Antietam KOA Campground, two Iraq War veterans, and ten pastors.
Parrott, a Republican candidate in the 6th Congressional District did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment, but he announced the suit in a news release.
“Threatening a legislator with arrest for exercising his first amendment right to free speech is not only unconstitutional, it is wrong,” Parrott said in his news release.
“Governor Hogan is trying his best and may have some good solutions, but even so, new laws like an edict ordering that masks must be worn need to come from the legislature, not the executive branch. I could not in good conscience sit idly by to watch our freedoms be taken away and to allow this to become precedent for future ‘emergencies’,” Parrott added.
A spokesman for Hogan commented on the lawsuit on Saturday night.
“We fully respect Delegate Cox’s right to protest, but that doesn’t entitle him to make false and baseless claims,” Hogan communications director Mike Ricci told WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5.
“The overwhelming majority of Marylanders don’t agree with him, and don’t know who he is.”
Cox was due to address a group of protesters who were driving from Frederick to Salisbury.
ReOpen Maryland had organized the protest.
“We should’ve had the opportunity to adhere to certain rules and regulations rather than be shut down,” James Knowles, a Queen Anne’s resident, told The Baltimore Sun during a lunch stop in Kent Island during Saturday’s protest.
Protesters made several stops as they drove across I-70, the Baltimore Beltway, I-97 and U.S. Route 50.
Group members pledged to follow social distancing guidelines by remaining in their cars, but many did not.
Jeff Hulbert, the founder of Patriot Picket, a pro-Second Amendment group, said responsibility for defending against the virus should be on individuals, not the government.
“What Governor Hogan should be doing is setting the guidelines and the guardrails, then we put on our personal protective equipment, we go to work, we go shopping, we go out to meet with friends, but we use our personal responsibility to take care of our own lives.”
At the final stop in Salisbury, participants gathered in a parking lot, where speakers, including U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, criticized the restrictions. Harris, a Republican, is also a licensed physician specializing in anesthesiology. He said he thinks enough is known about the virus now to start ending restrictions.
“Let’s let common sense prevail now. We know what’s safe and what isn’t,” Harris said to a cheering crowd of at least several dozen people. Most people did not wear masks and did not follow social distancing guidelines that call for staying at least 6 feet apart.
Harris also compared the restrictions in Maryland to North Korea.
Hogan responded to the protest and Harris’s comments during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I think everybody has a right to protest and express their feelings,” Hogan said. “A couple of dozen people did so yesterday. And they have every right to do that. We – sadly, we had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters.”
Hogan’s comments came as Maryland officials on Sunday reported that the state has confirmed 989 new cases of the virus and 26 more deaths since Saturday.
On Harris’ comparison of Maryland’s restrictions to North Korea, Hogan said, “He’s obviously got the right to say whatever crazy things he wants to say, but you know, I don’t really need to respond to him.”
ReOpen Maryland criticized Hogan on Sunday.