NEW JERSEY – Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Parker Space and Assemblyman Hal Wirths Monday chastised Governor Phil Murphy for frustrating and confusing New Jersey residents with his statements and contradictory actions.
After almost three months of emphasizing strict social distancing rules, during which Murphy closed the majority of businesses and all of the schools in the state and banned all large gatherings to protect public health and contain the coronavirus outbreak, the Governor threw away his own rulebook and walked shoulder-to-shoulder in Hillside and spoke at a large rally in Westfield, the lawmakers said.
“The right to protest is constitutionally protected, but we can’t be selective in who we allow to exercise that right and when they can do it,” Oroho said. “Business owners who want to assemble to fight the continued lockdown because they are struggling to remain afloat, or church congregants who want to be able to worship more freely have equal rights to protest. The Governor’s words and latest actions don’t marry up, and frankly he lacks the authority and ability to speak with clarity and conviction about the lockdown anymore. We can open up safely, let’s do it now!”
The majority of businesses in the state, those not deemed as essential by the Governor, remain closed. Next week, many will finally be allowed to open their doors to customers, but under limitations. Restaurants, for example, will be limited to outdoor dining, the lawmakers said.
“Our small businesses remain locked down, while some will open under strict capacity limits in the near future, but Governor Murphy can march with hundreds of people, clearly within six feet of each other,” Space said. “Any other outside event is limited to 25 people, and he is prohibiting high school graduations until July 6, yet look at the rally he attended!”
Space operates his family business, Space Farms Zoo and Museum in Wantage. The 93-year-old business had been closed up until recently and has only just reopened for limited drive-thru viewing.
“The First Amendment is for everyone. It’s not limited to those Murphy deems ‘essential’ to his re-election next year,” Space said. “The State Police actually had a stakeout in Beemerville waiting to arrest people who wanted to peacefully protest the lockdown in my parking lot.”
Businesses have been clamoring to reopen, but the administration has resisted. The owner of a tennis club who held a rally for reopening with many business owners at her facility in Morris County was recently cited for violations, the lawmakers said.
In Camden County, gym owners who reopened their facility last month were cited, and police shut-down the business and arrested a member after his workout, the lawmakers said.
“I believe in peaceful protest and every citizen using their First Amendment rights to petition government officials, even Murphy,” Wirths said. “But it is outrageous for him to march in such close proximity while businesses are forced to remain closed, churches are shut down, and peaceful protestors are being cited for violating Murphy’s edicts. American justice is blind – but everyone can see that Murphy is not acting justly to those who disagree with him.”