A grassroots community group raised more than $2,000 on Sunday to assist local businesses affected by the closings and lockdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic since mid-March.
The group Get Indiana County Back to Work heard from guest speakers in a general protest against the restrictions imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf at a picnic-style “FUNdraising Rally for Small Business” at the Indiana County Fox and Coon Hunters Association grounds along Ramsey Run Road.
Group organizer Tammy Curry, of White Township, said the group awarded $500 each to four businesses selected at random to share in the proceeds of the event. Supporters donated money for chances on a raffle of about 50 gift baskets and an estimated 40 to 50 gift cards.
The funds went to Cat Aid Network, Mutts of Merit, Massage by Lisa and Dee’s 422 West Side Salon.
An additional $360 was donated to the Fox and Coon Hunters organization to help cover COVID-19 outbreak-related losses, Curry said.
More than 40 supporters dined picnic-style in the hunters club pavilion and listened to a lineup of guest speakers — Republican candidates on the ballot for nominations in the primary on Tuesday and downtown Indiana business owner Christina Nicoll, of 7th Street Marketry — who criticized the Wolf administration’s broadly imposed efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus infection.
State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon County, told the gathering that the House on Thursday approved his legislative proposal to put an end to the state of disaster emergency imposed more than two months ago by the governor.
The measure goes next to the Senate for approval.
Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, a co-sponsor of the resolution, joined Diamond in standing in support of an effort in the General Assembly to impeach Wolf because of the conditions imposed during the outbreak.
Such a proposal, Struzzi said, must be well researched and well grounded to earn his signature.
Diamond held that the coronavirus is not as widespread as portrayed by Wolf and the state Department of Health.
The use of a three-color system of phases representing the level of restrictions being followed in Pennsylvania is unnecessary, Diamond said.
“It’s only in nursing homes, by the way. It’s not in the general population,” he said.
Diamond also said Wolf’s stay-at-home orders and shutdown of nonessential business violated state constitutional protection of citizens’ right to pursue happiness.
“It’s not just a tourism slogan in Pennsylvania,” Diamond said. “It is your right to do this. People are stunned when I tell them that.”
Like other speakers, event organizers and nearly every participant in sight, Diamond shook hands with others, sat shoulder-to-shoulder to listen to speeches and had no face mask.
“I am so proud to come to an event like this with people who are not afraid to be free,” Diamond said. “I am not afraid. And I told this to the church this morning, I will shake your hand, I will hug you. I will stand next to you and talk to you like a normal freaking human being and not try to measure six feet in between us.
“It’s not to say I’m going to force myself on you. If you don’t want to shake my hand or hug me, that’s fine. If you want to wear a mask when you talk to me, I’m OK with that too. But don’t judge me because I am not living in fear.”
“Amen!” someone shouted.
Diamond criticized contact-tracing practices that led to him being advised to self-quarantine for two weeks from May 14 to 28.
“Nobody freaking knows what contact tracing is all about, nobody knows what the qualifications are to be contact traced, nobody knows how hard other people look at what you’ve done,” Diamond said. “There’s this whole scarlet letter thing going on with anybody who’s contact traced, especially someone in my position or Jim’s position. I’ve had every ounce of my activities scrutinized the last two weeks in the press.”
Diamond downplayed House Democrats’ complaints about his unannounced time in quarantine and said state Health Secretary Rachel Levine “told them in their own caucus room that we did it right. We did it right and not everybody in the whole House had to know because not everybody in the whole House was in close contact, according to CDC guidelines.”
Other speakers included Ron Sheesley, a candidate for delegate to the Republican National Convention, and Jackie Cupp, seeking write-in votes for alternate delegate to the convention.