Across the street from a barricaded Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk, a crowd that organizers said broke 1,000 participants gathered to call on Gov. Phil Murphy and other state officials to reopen the state’s businesses and public spaces.
The rally drew a mix of business owners, Republicans, libertarian-minded Democrats and candidates for various political offices around the state. It also featured Ian Smith and Kyle Newell, co-owers of the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, who drew national attention after they reopened their business against Murphy’s lockdown order. Officials who spoke ranged from Democratic State Assemblyman Jamel Holley to Republican Senator Michael Testa, who is representing a number of Cape May County business owners in a lawsuit against the governor. Few attendees besides members of the press wore masks during the event.
“My office has responded to over 1,000 individuals who are still waiting for their unemployment benefits that they paid into and they deserve,” Testa said. “People have called me on the brink of a mental breakdown and on the brink of suicide. This is how sad it is.”
Murphy said in a television interview with CNN Monday that he didn’t “begrudge” citizens’ right to protest, “but they don’t sway me.”
Murphy, whose executive orders make up the bulk of the restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, was the object of the most derision.
“We’re already the most-taxed state in the union, we already have the greatest out-migration of any state in the United States of America, and people wonder why,” said Testa.
“Murphy!” a member of the crowd shouted.
“Absolutely,” Testa replied.
Kevin Jenkins of the Urban Global Health Alliance said he flew to New Jersey to speak at the rally.
“To come here today and see this, it gives me hope,” he said. “We should be angry as hell. This is war and we should be fighting back.”
The rally also featured podcast star and North Jersey gun range owner Anthony Colandro.
“My place is much safer than any corporate-recipient welfare big-box store,” said Colandro, who serves as a National Rifle Association board member. “We have individual stalls and the best air-handler system money can buy. Why are we still closed? Because the crown of New Jersey is anti-gun.”
The crowd was filled with a mix of Shore locals and those who came from out of town to call for New Jersey’s reopening. At one point, a “Lock Him Up” chant began, aimed at the governor. The crows also chanted “USA! USA!” and numerous other demands in unison.
“I don’t think that Governor Murphy has the right to shut down everybody. People are starving, people are committing suicide,” said Jenna Gallichia of Bedminster. “He’s not trying to take care of everybody, he’s taking care of who he thinks is important, which is him and whoever he decides. I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. We live in America, we have a constitution, and our rights are being utterly pushed aside.”
“If Murphy told us to jump off a bridge, are we all going to jump?” rhetorically asked Janet Murphy of Suthampton, making sure to add her familiar last name was just a coincidence. “People need to stand up and stop living in fear.”