North Carolina Shuts Down Ace Speedway Following Races Dubbed 'Peaceful Protests'

The state of North Carolina issued an order on Tuesday for Ace Speedway to immediately close the following races labeled as "peaceful protests." The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued the order while citing the track as an "imminent hazard for the spread of COVID-19." Ace Speedway had previously violated Gov. Roy Cooper's executive orders on mass gatherings while holding three separate races.

According to the order, Ace Speedway can not operate in any form. The track must also inform the public by 5 p.m. ET that the next race is canceled. The order allows track officials to propose a plan for holding mass gatherings that follow North Carolina guidelines — a maximum of 25 attendees. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services must approve the program before Ace Speedway resumes operations.

For approval, track officials must guarantee that all entertainers and participants will remain at least six feet away from attendees. They must also post multiple signs about social distancing. Additionally, track officials must screen workers with daily questionnaires.

Cooper previously ordered local officials to take action amid ongoing events at the track that drew an estimated 2,500 attendees. Sheriff Terry Johnson vocally protested this order while calling it "politically motivated." He specifically cited Cooper taking part in protest marches while not wearing a mask as the primary reason.

Ace Speedway reacted to Cooper's comments by putting a temporary a-frame sign by the entrance. "This Event is held in PEACEFUL Protest of Injustice & Inequality Everywhere – Ace Speedway," the sign read. Multitudes responded to this tact with a variety of responses. Some praised the idea and called for bars and restaurants to follow suit. Others referred to the attendees as "racist hillbillies."

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"People shouldn't run a money-making operation that puts in danger not only their customers but anybody who would come into contact with their customers," Gov. Cooper said on Monday. "This is a reckless decision being made by the owners, pulling people together in that way that can cause the spread of the virus. Alamance County is one of the counties that is having higher numbers than it should have.

"We look forward to taking some action on this in the coming week. It's concerning that Alamance officials have not been able to stop this. We would hope that they could. But if they can't, then the state will have to take action, which we will do this week if the local officials don't."