Phil Murphy’s standing with nail salon owners just took a hit.
More than once today, the governor defended the many George Floyd-related statewide protests over the weekend – social distancing be damned – by stressing the importance of the moment, anger and anguish at seeing a black man killed by police “right before our eyes.”
He said rallying against racism is far more important than protesting pandemic-related orders to close nail salons.
As soon as he said it, the governor acknowledged his comparison was going to provoke criticism. Later he said, presumably addressing salon owners directly, “Don’t come at me, nothing personal.”
By any objective metric, the governor is right. But politics tends to be a subjective sport; you can expect Republicans and others who want a quick reopening of the state economy to jump on this remark. It likely will be construed as a sign of the governor’s alleged indifference to small business owners.
Murphy waded into this subject when asked if the many protests around New Jersey violated social distancing regulations. Of course they did, which is what led the governor to compare them with a pedestrian concern like nail salons. Let’s face it, he could have picked bowling alleys.
More generally, Murphy praised the mostly “peaceful” and “moving” protests, saying that such expressions were “the language of the ignored.” He also expressed pride that the protests unified the state.
Pat Callahan, the head of the State Police, put the number of protests across the state at more than 30. He said there were problems in only two locales – Trenton and Atlantic City.
In both cities, demonstrations were peaceful during the day, but escalated into vandalism and looting at night. Callahan said there were 27 arrests in Trenton and 12 in Atlantic City, mostly for criminal mischief. He said most of those arrested appeared to be from the local area.
Murphy, who seemed much more eager to talk about the peaceful protests, called the vandalism “attacks” on the community at large by a “vast minority of actors.” The Trenton mayhem occurred just a few blocks from where the governor holds his briefings.
Murphy was asked about, but did not directly address, an observation by the president that governors will look “weak” if they don’t do more to stop the violence. In truth, things have been much calmer in New Jersey than other places, at least for now.
Callahan spoke to that, noting that many of the protests and marches involved organizers planning the event with local police and clergy.
The best example of that was in Camden, where the protest march was led by the police chief himself. Some of the good news emanating from Camden and its police force dates back to the Christie years.
That was when the old city police department was abolished and replaced by a new Camden County
Not surprisingly, this is something the former governor found time to mention today in a tweet.