HILLSBOROUGH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There were a pair of protests outside gyms in New Jersey on Monday, each demanding all small businesses be allowed to reopen immediately.
Protesters gathered outside Newell Strength, a gym in the Somerset County town of Hillsborough, to show support for the owner.
CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported that people were working out inside the gym, some without masks. Owner Kyle Newell assured CBS2 the business is sanitizing and operating at a limited capacity.
Newell said he had no problem being fined or even arrested in order to exercise his rights.
“This is our sole source of income. I spent 20 years building this business and I’m not just gonna let it fade away,” Newell said.
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A similar protest was held earlier Monday at Atilis Gym in Bellmawr. It opened up at 8 a.m. to cheers and a huge crowd. After two months closed, the gym reopened in defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s stay-at-home order.
Anthony Diehl was one of many gym members who lined up to be the first to go inside.
“Anybody that’s paying their bills or taking care of their families is an essential business, so I’m just out here to support his right to operate,” Diehl said.
The gym’s co-owners, Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith, have instituted a number of safety measures to show that they are taking health and hygiene very seriously.
However, they were issued summonses for violating Gov. Murphy’s executive order, the Bellmawr Police Department said on Monday night.
The gym will only be open to existing members and will operate at 20% capacity. Temperatures will be taken at the door and anyone at 100.4 or above will not be allowed in.
People must wear masks unless they are in the middle of lifting weights.
“I don’t have a problem with it at all. Going to the gym is good for your health. It’s good for your mind. It’s good for your body,” gym member Tony Lukosius said.
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In a pair of videos posted to Facebook, the gym’s co-owners explained their decision to defy the governor’s order, saying the forced closure implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus violates their constitutional rights.
“If big box retailers, grocery and liquor stores can operate with proper health protocol in place, so can every single business in America,” Smith said.
The reopening also attracted dozens of people who are not members of the gym. Many were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing, and were waving flags supporting President Donald Trump. Wanda Tranquillo is a nurse who called on New Jersey to reopen for business.
“All jobs are essential, not just mine because I am a healthcare worker, not the police officers. Every job. Your nail salons, your hair salons, your gym owners … every job is essential. Everybody should be allowed to work,” Tranquillo said.
During a news conference last week, Gov. Murphy said he is aware of the gym, and added that “they’re out of compliance and that’s not going to be tolerated.”