MOSSYROCK, Wash. — Hundreds of people converged on the small town of Mossyrock in Lewis County Saturday to support small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
The "Freedom Rally" gave people a chance to share their frustrations about Gov. Jay Inslee's latest set of COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit indoor dining and set capacity restrictions on retail stores.
It's been a rough year in Mossyrock, where the cancellation of the annual Blueberry Festival along with Loggers Jubilee in nearby Morton has deeply impacted tourism. Those closures along with increased COVID restrictions have pushed some to the breaking point, emotionally and financially.
"What people don't understand is those three events in those towns is what gets the towns by for the year because of the tourism," said Arminta Melis, who came with her husband from Morton to show support for Mossyrock.
Mossyrock Mayor Randall Sasser said he had talked with people from around the state who had come to help out.
Steve Hurst said he came from Olympia because he thinks the governor is overstepping his power.
"It's a real disease but it's not being handled properly, restaurants don't spread it," claimed Hurst.
Sasser has pushed back against the state restrictions, saying he believes they have other consequences.
"We all understand that there is an issue here but when it comes to shutting down businesses and not looking at the other parts, domestic violence, the drug abuse, the alcoholism and suicide rates…it’s part of a discussion that has to happen," said Sasser.
Organizers of the rally encouraged attendees to bring money and several restaurants had long lines. There also seemed to be an increased police presence with several officers from neighboring agencies milling around.
"I’m pleased that we do have a lot of support and it’s gone peaceful, I’m happy for that, happy for our businesses," Sasser said.
The event remained peaceful, although the anger still simmered. Many in more rural communities feel a disconnect from the decisions made in the state's largest cities and said what's good for big city Washington may not be right for their community, as well.
"They're frustrated at being told what they can and can't do in their homes, where they can and can't shop," Melis said. "Wal-Mart and Target, and all these big box stores are open, but little mom and pop shops can't be open...that ain't right."