The mayor of a small New Mexico city warned there would be a “confrontation” between his police and the state if his order to reopen businesses was blocked.
Grants Mayor Martin Hicks allowed his town to reopen for limited business on Monday, in direct defiance of the statewide order in place by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in response to the coronavirus pandemic. He joined a few dozen supporters on Monday to rally in support of businesses in the city of about 9,000 people.
“The governor is killing the state over a little bug,” Hicks said Monday, according to CBS News.
The Democrat mayor encouraged businesses to open their doors on Monday, opened the city’s only golf course and called Grants’ 100 employees back to work.
“Our governor is saying to you, you are going to die if you go back to work at city hall,” Hicks declared at the gathering by city hall, KOAT-TV reported.
“You are going to die if you go back to your construction job, but it’s OK if you work at Walmart. You are not going to die if you work at Walmart. Just any other place you are going to die,” he said, projecting a 33% loss of revenue in the western New Mexico town.
The state’s Democratic governor had criticized the plan by Hicks to reopen his town, saying it makes “absolutely no sense whatsoever” and warning that State Police would be on hand to continue to enforce her stay-at-home order through May 15.
New Mexico has seen more than 2,700 cases. About 150 people are hospitalized and 99 have died, according to state health officials. The highest number of cases in the state have been recorded just to the west of Grants in McKinley County.
All nonessential businesses in New Mexico were ordered to close and gatherings of over five people were banned by the governor’s order back in March. Hicks announced his plan to reopen Grants last week.
“On Monday… we are reopening Grants. Yes we are, we are going to follow the CDC guidelines. We are going to do the social distancing, but we will be open for business even though that is against the governor’s executive order,’ he said, according to KOAT.
“I am prepared to take whatever she wants to give me because she is already killing us anyway. What she going to do she hasn’t already done to us? She has taken all of our jobs. What she going to do come put me in jail?” he asked, speaking of Lujan Grisham.
“There will be a confrontation down here. I guarantee you there,” Hicks told the Associated Press on Friday. ‘I’ve ordered the police to stop any State Police officer who comes into town and tries to shut them down.”
A few stores did open up on Monday and some owners who did not were still supportive of the mayor.
“They are going to take it day by day and see what the governor has to say,” City Councilor Eric Garcia said. “They listened to what the mayor has said.”
Diane Rowe, the owner of Papa’s Pawn Shop, has been defying the governor’s order for a month and on Monday, began letting one customer in at a time. One of them was Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace who showed up at the store but said he was there to shop.
“I was looking for what kind of good deals you can find,” Mace said. “Maybe there is a new handgun I need, some ammunition. I just want to support the local economy.”
“There are a lot of other things out there I could be dealing with,” he added. “Who am I to say who is an essential business and who is not essential.”
David Loeffler has also defied the state order and kept his family-owned gun shop open, letting only four people in at a time. The sign outside of a thrift store announced plans to open Tuesday along with the words, “Go Rogue!”
State police showed up at the Grants golf course on Monday, issuing a “notice of violation” and prompting Hicks to come over, urging the 20 or so golfers — including City Councilor Rick Lucero — to return to playing.
“What’s wrong? Social distancing guys get a shot of that. How is that for social distancing?” Hicks told reporters as he pointed to the wide open golf course. “I am going to come back and golf today for sure and haven’t golfed in years.”
“We are out here in the middle of nowhere,” Lucero said. “I think it is safer to be out here rather than Walmart.”
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