Several hundred people gathered on Point Pleasant Beach Monday during the“Freedom March of NJ”, a rally which called Gov. Phil Murphy to fully reopen the state after more than two months of closures due to the coronavirus crisis.
Democratic State Assemblyman Jamel Holley and Republican Senator Joe “Jersey Joe” Pennachio both spoke at the event, as did Ian Smith and Kyle Newell, co-owers of the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr that was closed after reopening in defiance of Governor Phil Murphy’s order.
“Thousands of people are strolling through Home Depot every day buying widgets and gadgets yet we’re denying our small businesses the right to sell those same widgets and gadgets,” Pennachio said. “Gov. Murphy you took an oath to uphold the constitution under God. Gov. Murphy, let my people go.”
During the rally people were chanting protest slogans against the closure of businesses. “Reopen New Jersey now” and “all businesses are essential”. Most in attendance were not wearing masks
The event was held across the street from Jenkinson’s amusements and the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk, which has been closed all weekend because the borough does not have enough police officers to manage the crowds that usually come for Memorial Day weekend, Point Beach Mayor.
Governor Phil Murphy said he respected the efforts of those at the rally, but he insisted he was focused on public safety.
Murphy has repeatedly said the pace of the reopening will be dictated by the data and scientific information.
“I don’t begrudge their right to protest, but they don’t sway me,” Governor Phil Murphy told press reporters. “The only thing that sways me are the facts and the data and the science. And listen, I want to open salons and gyms as much as anybody, but I think folks know this, but when you talk about indoors, lack of ventilation, close proximity, sedentary…we’re not there yet. I want to do it responsibly, and I don’t want to kill anybody.”
On Friday, Murphy increased the number of people permitted at outdoor gatherings to 25. Beaches have been opened along much of the Jersey Shore, with restrictions.
“We respect everyone’s constitutional rights to assemble and peacefully protest,” Police Chief Joseph. A. Michigan said prior to the event, adding the department would have “a very high visible law enforcement presence.”
There were no reports of any incidents.