OSWEGO - A Reopen Illinois rally attracted nearly 200 people to Oswego's Mason Square shopping center along busy Ogden Avenue (Route 34) Saturday afternoon.
"We're united here today because we believe and support the businesses and citizens that have relentlessly pursued that American dream and are the backbone of our American society," organizer and Oswego resident Jason Hudson told the crowd.
"Businesses and people who work for these businesses, they're suffering because of the shutdown. Everybody's got rent to pay, everybody's got credit cards to pay, everybody's got a mortgage to pay," Hudson said prior to the rally.
Hudson called for a safe and soft reopening of Illinois businesses and industries amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. He called for Illinois counties and local elected officials to make the decisions for their own communities.
"It saddens me to see my fellow Americans struggling to pay their bills, lose their jobs, not have the money to eat or pay their mortgage or rent, or to make a car payment," Hudson said. "It saddens me to see our unemployment numbers increase...we need to start the reopening of Illinois."
Though Hudson planned the rally as a non-partisan event, several participants held signs and flags praising President Donald Trump and in support of his reelection campaign. Several speakers running as Republican candidates for local, state and national office addressed the crowd.
Most of the participants did not wear facemasks or practice social distancing as advised by local, state and federal health officials.
"We will overcome, we will prosper, and continue to pursue that American dream," Hudson said. "We are gathered here today to say to our elected officials, 'Let those Americans who made that sacrifice to pursue that dream continue their path.'
"We're here to say, 'Reopen Illinois,'" he said.
Hudson also made a point to thank the Oswego Police Department for their cooperation as he planned the rally. Several squad cars drove past the rally during its three hours along the heavily trafficked highway.