The Wars Within the War

Callahan

Push may come to shove in the next few days, but Phil Murphy doesn’t want things getting out of control.

Or as he said today, he’s not looking to “start World War Three.”

This comment had to do with the opening this morning of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, Camden County, in defiance of state executive orders.

So, what happened? Did the gendarme break up the gathering and march the operator and patrons to jail?

Not really. Local police essentially blessed the arrangement as a crowd of supporters cheered. At the governor’s briefing later in the day, however, it surfaced that the owner was given a summons.

To anyone attending last month’s anti-lockdown rally in Trenton, this type of response was not surprising. About 200 people, most of whom ignored social distancing policy, amassed at the Statehouse that day.

At least a dozen state troopers simply watched the protest, making no move to break it up. The next day, the organizer was given a summons.

The governor’s comment about not looking to start a world war probably was more than a mere throwaway line. Clearly, the administration feels a benign approach to these protests is preferable to an over-the-top reaction with lights, sirens and dozens of arrests.

There is some logic here. After all, in today’s episode, the owner and his customers are hardly criminals in the true meaning of the word.

Also, why make the gym owner a martyr to the anti-lockdown crowd?

Better to let things play out and just summon the owner.

For today at least.

The question is, what happens tomorrow?

The governor gave a hint about that when he said people showing up at that gym again tomorrow may confront a different reality. Will they find the gym locked and “protected” by state troopers? Will day two
result in mass arrests?

Murphy tried – a bit unconvincingly – to say he wasn’t all that concerned about the gym in Bellmawr. He said that’s because the “overwhelming” amount of residents are following the law and respecting the virus.

And that leads to good news. The governor announced an additional 83 deaths and 1,735 new cases, but hospitalizations, patients on ventilators, and in intensive care continue to decrease.

That has allowed Murphy to slowly implement phase one of reopening the state. Coming on the heels of beach openings this coming weekend, the governor said today that batting cages, shooting and archery ranges and private tennis courts can reopen by the weekend.

And he talked hopefully about soon getting to phase two, which would include reopening of restaurants (outdoor dining and limited indoor capacity)  museums and libraries.

As to continuing to fight the virus, Murphy said, “Outside is safer than inside.”

Which brings us back to the gym in Bellmawr, an inside venue to be sure. Clearly, a business brazenly not following the law is not something the administration can ignore.

Doing so would compromise state pandemic regulations and also give the offending health club a competitive advantage over those following the law and staying closed.

That’s not something the state should tolerate.

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