The leader of a North Carolina group protesting the state’s lockdown measures said he is “willing to kill people” in order to fight back against government restrictions.
Adam Smith, one of the founders of ReOpenNC, said during a Facebook live chat this week that he was willing to resort to violence to push back against restrictions that remain in place in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus. As the News Observer reported, Smith repeatedly said he was prepared to react violently if the government were to push back with force against the protests.
“Are we willing to kill people? Are we willing to lay our lives down? We have to say yes,” Smith said in the 17-minute video, which was taken down after the first reports emerged of his violent threats.
Later in the video, Smith said that protesters were prepared to take up arms if the government were to try to stop them.
“If you bring force, we’re gonna bring force. If you bring guns, we’re gonna bring guns. If you’re armed with this, we’re gonna be armed with this,” he said.
Adam Smith’s wife, Ashley, later shared her own Facebook message saying that their group was based on the U.S. Constitution and that Adam, a former Marine, was “willing to die for all of you too” when he was in the armed forces.
Smith’s group is one of many that have protested against stay-at-home restrictions that remain in place across many states, months after the first outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S. Many of these have included extremist elements, and a number of protesters have been armed for their demonstrations.
The News Observer reported that some North Carolina protests have contained elements of extremist groups as well. One protest held in Raleigh last week included a group called Blue Igloo, which was a play on the term “Boogaloo,” which the Anti-Defamation League has called slang for a civil war in which militia groups would take on the U.S. government.
ReOpenNC has become one of the state’s largest protest groups, gathering close to 80,000 followers on Facebook in close to six weeks since it first formed in early April.
The state of North Carolina moved into its second phase of reopening this week, allowing more businesses to reopen, including restaurants, the Citizen Times reported. The phase officially lifts the state’s stay-at-home order and replaces it with what officials call “safer-at-home,” calling on residents to use caution when going out and avoid group settings.
This phase is set to last through at least June 26 before further restrictions would be lifted.