Tom Wolf marches with George Floyd protesters ‘to show solidarity’ despite pandemic

Less than three weeks after he threatened to cut funding to the “cowardly” county leaders who reopened in defiance of his coronavirus-related lockdown orders, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was spotted Wednesday among hundreds of George Floyd protesters holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign.

Mr. Wolf marched with protesters through the streets of Harrisburg, Dauphin County, which is still in the yellow phase of reopening and prohibits social gatherings of more than 25 people.

“The governor has always said that people have the right to protest, and to demonstrate, and the right to free speech, and so overall, we want large gatherings such as maybe a party or some type of concert or something, to be under 250 people,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine told PennLive.

“But, we are not restricting people’s right to protest,” she said. “There are all obviously significant social issues that are present, that people feel that they need to have a voice, and so the governor is always supportive of that and is participating.”

Dr. Levine cited the guidelines for green counties, even though they don’t apply to Dauphin County where the march was held, PennLive reported.

A Wolf spokesperson explained why the governor’s participation was necessary.

“After five days of escalating protests, the governor made a trip to Philadelphia and marched with protestors in Harrisburg in an attempt to show solidarity and urge deescalation so we can address the issues of structural inequality without violence,” Wolf’s press secretary, Lyndsay Kensinger, told PennLive in an email.

“This was not something the governor would prefer or recommend, but he thought it was necessary to help the commonwealth,” she wrote. “Throughout the pandemic the governor has made limited allowances for constitutionally protected speech including protests and religious services.”

Mr. Wolf’s participation in the protest comes less than three weeks after he threatened to withhold funding from counties and licenses from businesses that tried to reopen ahead of his timetable.

“To those politicians who decide to cave in to this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” the governor said on May 11. “The funding we have put aside to help with fighting this crisis will go to the folks who are doing their part, and that includes our CARES Act funding, which will be used to support counties that are following the orders to prevent the spread.”

“However, other discretionary funding won’t go to counties that put us all at risk by operating illegally,” he added.

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