RALEIGH — One of the co-founders of REopen NC has left the group following arrests that occurred at the end of yesterday’s protests.
“I just left the #ReopenNC movement,” wrote Kristen Elizabeth on her Facebook page. “This movement has taken a turn that we were not in agreement with. Ashley acted on her own yesterday with nearly inciting a riot. I have said from the beginning, we are a peaceful action group and I have carried myself that way and protected our group with every fiber of my being.”
Kristen Elizabeth is the name used by Kristen Cochran when posting on Facebook and in the REopen NC group.
In her Facebook post, Elizabeth wrote that “We have a very different understanding to what “civil disobedience” calls for” and that her attempts to bring a consensus on the direction of the movement with co-founder Ashley Smith were unsuccessful.
Kristen Elizabeth tells North State Journal that the actions and arrests near the end of the protest on April 28 were not what she had signed on for. She said she spoke with Smith this morning to work out what happened but emotions were still running high and she was unable to have a civil or amicable conversation with Smith.
“I was told this is the way it is and if I don’t like it I need to go,” wrote Elizabeth. “I encourage anyone who knows this can be accomplished civilly, to continue doing so without affiliation with #ReopenNC. Ashley has changed the narrative of this movement and I can no longer go along with it.”
Smith was one of four protesters arrested. Charges pending for Smith are listed as violating the governor’s “executive order 117.”
“Our protests will continue. Our civil disobedience will accelerate,” said Smith in a press release following her arrest at the protest. “Our faith in the Police has diminished. We will open North Carolina!”
Three other people arrested on the same charge are Jonathan Dane Warren II, age 35, Lisa Marks Todd, age 55, and Wendy Kath Macasieb, age 53. All four also were charged with “resisting an officer.”
Jonathan Dane Warren II was also charged with “injury to real property” involving damage caused by Warren to the northeast gate of the executive mansion. Law enforcement has indicated the damage came when Warren yanked on the gate. Members of the group present have disputed the charge and said the damage to the gate was preexisting.
“We’re not a membership organization and therefore bear no responsibility for the behavior or actions of anyone who participates in our protest rallies. Jonathan Warren acted entirely of his own volition,” An official spokesperson from REopenNC said.
“She was running on emotions, not logic,” Elizabeth said to North State Journal in an interview, adding later on that manner in which Smith was arrested and interactions of protesters nearby towards law enforcement was not where she saw the movement going.
“We had a plan and she deviated from that plan,” said Elizbeth. “Yes, I was on board with that, absolutely, one-hundred percent. That was a civil disobedience measure that we were planning that everyone knew about and she went off and did her own thing.”
Elizabeth says she does plan to keep fighting to get North Carolina reopened and that every decision she has made has been to promote the cause.
North State Journal reached out to REopen NC’s media contact for comment.
“It is with a heavy heart I must inform you that one of our Co-founders, Kristen Cochran, a.k.a. Kristen Elizabeth, made the decision earlier today to separate from REopenNC,” said Ashley Smith, Co-founder
and official spokesperson for the organization said in a statement.
“After several conversations regarding the direction REopenNC is continuing on, Kristen and I ‘agreed to disagree’ hence her departure. I can easily say she added tremendous value and numerous contributions to our cause and she will be missed,” Smith said. “One thing is for certain, however, hundreds of supporters who are aware of her departure have encouraged REopenNC to keep moving forward on our mission to get this state open and back to normal ASAP. The outpouring of support of the movement has been overwhelming even in light of this leadership change.”
This story is still developing.