ST. PAUL — A group calling itself “Liberate Minnesota” is using Facebook to organize a protest in front of the Governor’s Residence on Friday, April 17, to demand that Gov. Tim Walz end the stay-at-home order he issued in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Now is the time to demand Governor Walz and our state legislators end this lock down!” the group wrote in its Facebook post. “Minnesota’s economy must be opened for business or destroying the livelihoods of thousands of Minnesota citizens and their families may result if we don’t act quickly.”

It accuses Walz of using the COVID-19 crisis not to “save lives” but to strip Minnesotans of their freedoms.

The protest is scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. However, protesters were already gathering outside the residence on Thursday.

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The Democratic governor has said he wants to open businesses and let people go back to work, but only after public health experts assure him that social distancing restrictions can be lifted without exposing residents to more infections.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday that 1,912 state residents had tested positive for the virus since Jan. 20, and 94 had died.

Walz has extended his stay-home order to May 4.

The protest on St. Paul’s Summit Avenue is part of a growing national trend. The New York Times reported Thursday that similar demonstrations against stay-at-home limits have occurred at state capitals in Michigan, North Carolina and Kentucky, and further protests have been announced in other states, including Texas and Oregon.

When asked about the local protest, Walz’s office responded: “The Governor has said that we can’t lose our democracy during this pandemic, and this extends to people exercising their First Amendment rights. We ask that for the health and safety of themselves, their families, and their fellow Minnesotans that those demonstrating exercise good social distancing behavior.”