Phil Murphy always says he makes decisions based on science and data, but you have to wonder if he was “hearing footsteps.”
On Monday, critics called him a hypocrite for violating his own guidelines on large gatherings by attending two such gatherings in Hillside and Westfield related to the death of George Floyd. At the same time, authorities ticketed the owner of a closed tennis center in Randolph for organizing a protest in support of small businesses.
The governor’s stance on Monday essentially was that the anti-bias protests are a “moment in time,” and more important than playing tennis.
Things have changed.
Today, the governor relaxed the standards on all outdoor gatherings, but more importantly, he said First Amendment protests, which kind of covers all of them, are exempt from the new standards. Or as he called them, “political protests of any persuasion.”
So that means all those organizing protests from today on can do so without risking a summons.
The governor was asked if this change had anything to do with the fallout from his Sunday activities.
“It wasn’t related to the push-back,” Murphy said, a statement that seemed at least a bit dubious. In truth, the governor was on pretty shaky terrain in favoring one type of protest over another.
The fallout included Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber asking State Police head Pat Callahan to give the governor a summons for violating his own executive order in regard to gatherings.
That would have been pretty easy; Callahan sits about 20 feet away from Murphy at every briefing. The State Police honcho, not surprisingly, ignored Webber’s request. Now the issue has been put to rest, but loose ends remain.
Jennifer Rogers is the owner of the Randolph Tennis Center and the woman ticketed for the May 30 gathering. Asked about that specific issue today, the governor said he knew nothing about it.
Still, it would seem to behoove authorities to dismiss the charges against Rogers.
Murphy today also rescinded the “stay at home” order.
Some Republican critics have likened this to some sort of “house arrest,” but, in truth, it really wasn’t a big deal. State troopers were not standing on the corner asking folks why they were out of their homes.
Even officially, there were many exceptions – shopping for essential items, medical appointments, walking the dog and exercising were some of them. And despite some misconceptions, there never was a curfew.
But now that order is history too and the march to normalcy moves along.