Since the executive orders from Gov. Roy Cooper ordering businesses and churches closed and people to stay at home began in March, people particularly, business owners, have complained about the confusing and often contradictory language of the various orders.
Ace Speedway in Altamahaw has taken advantage of that confusion to hold three races, complete with thousands of spectators including one on Saturday, June 6.
After weeks of requesting some clarification of the law, Alamance County finally received a letter from the governor’s attorney, William McKinney, on June 5 after Ace Speedway had held two races with thousands of spectators in the stands.
The letter answered some of the questions posed by Alamance County including who was supposed to enforce the most recent executive order known as Phase 2, and that answer was the Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. Another question Alamance County asked was if the crowd at the racetrack was protected under the First Amendment right “peaceably to assemble.” The Phase 2 order states that First Amendment rights are exempted from the order. McKinney said, no, that the gathering at the speedway did not have the First Amendment protection that religious services and other activities had.
However, an attorney who has researched that question said that he could find no cases where that particular question of what constituted a peaceful assembly was answered by the courts.
However, Ace Speedway took that decision into its own hands put up a sign at the entrance that read: “This Event is held in Peaceful Protest of Injustice & Inequality Everywhere. Ace Speedway.”
Cooper has maintained that his order for public gatherings to be a maximum of 25 people did not apply to protests. In fact, Cooper was photographed out with protestors in Raleigh last week and he was not conforming with his own social distancing guidelines nor was he wearing a mask and the crowd was much larger than the 25 person maximum for gatherings.
At last report, Ace Speedway had not been issued a citation for violating the maximum number of people at an outdoor gathering even though reports are that over 2,000 people attended the race on Saturday, June 6.
When the latest executive order starting Phase 2 of Cooper’s reopening plan was issued, there was a question about whether breweries, distilleries and wineries could open. The clarification from the governor’s office was that, along with restaurants, breweries, distilleries and wineries could open under the Phase 2 restrictions but bars could not. Cooper is currently being sued by the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association over that particular clarification. Cooper also lost a lawsuit brought by two churches for the limits placed on indoor church gatherings and was told in no uncertain terms by a federal District Court judge that there was no pandemic exception for the First Amendment.
Mark Robinson, who is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, spoke at Ace Speedway before the race.