On the same Saturday as Tarrant County reported a near-record 130 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths, bringing the total number of the deaths to 52, a handful of people assembled in front of the Tarrant County Courthouse to protest COVID-19 restrictions and argue for everyone to get back to work.
“I love the city more than [Mayor] Betsy Price,” said protest organizer Thomas Lail, owner of True Guard Property Management and Fort Worth Strong, a gym on the Near Southside. “She’s more concerned about getting COVID. We never shut down for SARS.”
In North Texas, he continued, there are 7.5 million people and only 134 dead from the illness.
“More die of the flu or car wrecks,” he said. “We should have never shut down completely.”
His fellow protesters agreed. Luke Caviness, a realtor and Navy vet, echoes Lail, saying, “The math doesn’t add up. I’m not laying any blame. … The government intervention may have started with good intentions, but now it’s excessive to the nth degree.”
His sister-in-law, Kelly Caviness, co-owner of Pampered House Maids, also strongly believes that COVID-19 restrictions are wrong. “I believe in the Constitution,” she said. “Our government doesn’t have the right to do this. … This is not the government I want. People need to see that this is not OK. The numbers are not there to produce this kind of panic.”
However, another protestor, aspiring author James Jones, ascribed darker motivations for the COVID-19 restrictions.
“You can call me a conspiracy theorist,” he said. “If you’re not afraid, they can’t control you. … The real problem is fear. The more you worry, the worse it gets. … We can stay stuck in our houses forever.”
From memory, he recited one of his poems in which he calls on people to “reject the world’s lies.”
During much of the protest, Lail, wearing boxing gloves, was working on his footwork and throwing some mean jabs to imaginary ribs in the pedestrian crosswalk, drawing attention from passing vehicles.
Once he asked a driver in a pick-up truck stopped at the light, “Do you like the new normal?”
Cranking up the volume of his speakers, the driver only responded with a thumbs up.
But many cars and trucks passing by showed their agreement, either by honking their horns or giving a thumbs up sign. Some even stopped to take photos. One passerby on foot stopped and asked if he could hold a sign and join the protest for a few minutes.
After one especially loud klaxon blast, Lail said, “You can write this down. It’s all about the honk. Every honk is a potential person who saw this message and went home and told their family and decided, ‘Listen, we need to go back to work.’ Every honk is a salute to why we’re gathered here today.”
Lail said his group will be at the Tarrant County Courthouse every Saturday to protest the restrictions until Fort Worth is opened up, and he firmly believes that his ranks will grow as people’s economic conditions worsen.
“I’ve been interested in getting into politics … in the next mayoral race,” he said, bobbing and weaving in the crosswalk, “I’m running, and I’ll win.”