BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Earlier this week, hundreds of people gathered outside the Massachusetts Statehouse, demanding the end to statewide restrictions like non-essential business closures and social distancing advisories amid the coronavirus pandemic.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the protestors had a right to voice their beliefs, and that he understood their frustrations. "Certainly I see everyone's point," said Walsh. "When you close the economy, it's detrimental to a city. It's damaging to our budget at City Hall... There's nothing more I'd like to have happen... than to get our economy up and running."
However, Walsh said even with the statewide restrictions in place, more than 4,000 people in Massachusetts have died, mostly within the past month, from what is a "very highly contagious disease, a worldwide pandemic."
Both Gov. Baker and Mayor Walsh said on Wednesday that the state and city have both seen declines in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, which has led the state to plan on certain industries starting a slow reopening on May 18.
"People have a right to demonstrate if they choose," said Walsh. "It seemed pretty calm. People had signs, people were expressing their opinions, and I appreciate that. I just ask them as they're doing that, to think about, you know, we're not doing this because we want to do this. Shutting things down is not something, as a Mayor, you want to do."
The protestors gathered across Beacon Street at around 1 p.m. on Monday, demanding an end to the economic shutdown. Many demonstrators held flags and signs saying "keep America working," and hundreds of posters expressed support for President Trump.
Walsh said he appreciates "that's their right... Freedom of speech," but said he also "hope[s] they understand that many people have lost their life here due to COVID-19, and many more people are going to lose their life. And our job is to make sure that as we return back to our life, that it's done very carefully, and I would just ask them to consider that."
Walsh said the demonstrators can "of course" continue "as long as they do it in a respectful manner, and they don't disrupt peoples livelihoods, and don't cause a public safety issue."
"For everyone, including the people that were protesting yesterday, I think my job, and Governor's job, and all of us as elected officials and leaders, is to protect them," said Walsh. "And to make sure as we think about reopening society, that it's done thoughtfully, done with proven metrics and data, done carefully systematically, and I think most people understand that."
When asked whether the statewide ban on gatherings of more than ten people includes demonstrations, Walsh said the ban on gatherings is a "recommended advisory the Governor put down... I don't believe it's mandated. It's a recommendation for people to keep themselves safe from people who might have the virus, or people who might be... carriers of the virus."
(Photo: Getty Images)