“Don’t ever apologize for working.”
That was the rallying cry in Laredo as Shelley Luther, the Dallas salon owner recently arrested for reopening her business over objections from state and local authorities, addressed a crowd of Texans at the Open Texas Rally for Freedom on the steps of city hall.
Citizens, both local and from across Texas, united in the South Texas city, waving American flags and signs urging the reopening of all businesses.
Luther’s appearance marks her first address outside of Dallas since the Texas Supreme Court ordered her release from jail last week.
Her case drew national attention, resulting in Abbott removing jail time provisions from his orders as well as a GoFundMe fundraising account established in her name raising a half-million dollars, which she is using to help business owners who have been similarly targeted.
The highlight of the event came when Luther brought Laredo beauticians Brenda Mata and Ana Castro-Garcia to the stage. Both women were recently arrested by police in Laredo as part of a sting operation for offering to provide cosmetic services at home despite shelter-in-place restrictions as part of the government’s response to the Chinese coronavirus.
Luther used her opportunity on stage to bring attention to Mata and Castro-Garcia’s similar GoFundMe efforts, priming the pump by donating $2,500 to help kick off their legal defense fundraising.
“I challenge any government official to come and tell one of these beautiful ladies to their face they are not essential,” said Luther.
In an interview with Texas Scorecard following the rally, Luther expressed confusion behind the logic of recent staged reopening orders from Gov. Greg Abbott.
“I just don’t understand the reasoning between essential and non-essential,” Luther said, highlighting tattoo shop owners as an example of a business that is currently not allowed to open, despite holding similar licenses and being held to similar standards as hair salons.
“Just open them all up, and we won’t have this issue and you don’t have to send anybody money,” she added. “Just open it up.”
Luther also said that, while she has not spoken to Abbott directly, she has spoken with members of his team and believes her example has helped shape the guidelines and hasten the reopening of salons across the state.
“I think a lot of the regulations when he did open the salons were a lot of the suggestions that I gave him,” she said, adding that salons also opened up 10 days earlier than Abbott previously forecasted. “I feel like our movement, and a lot of other people as a team, we got salons open sooner and they heard us, so I appreciate that.”
Lt. Col. Allen West, a former congressman and current candidate for chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, also addressed the crowd, taking aim at the heavy-handed local orders that have crippled small businesses across the state.
“Elected officials do not have the enumerated power to declare who is, and who is not, essential,” said West.
During his speech, West also offered a message to law enforcement officers in jurisdictions with overbearing orders.
“You do not have to follow an immoral or unethical order. You need to start manning up … and not going after women in their homes,” he said, to applause from the crowd.
Also in attendance at the event were various local business owners, candidates for political office, and Republican Party of Texas Vice Chair Alma Perez Jackson.
Laredo, the setting of the rally, has been at the forefront of strict orders in response to the virus, being among the first cities in the state to implement stay-at-home orders and mandatory mask ordinances.