TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy continues to enforce his social distancing guidelines.
Kim Pagan of Toms River was charged by the New Jersey State Police with violating the emergency orders by organizing a “prohibited event” in Trenton in which protesters gathered outside the Statehouse and at other locations in Trenton to demonstrate against the governor’s executive orders, authorities announced Friday in a press release.
As New Jersey combats COVID-19, Murphy is enforcing a series of executive orders requiring his constituents to stay at home unless seeking medical attention or shopping for essential goods, among other allowances.
Non-essential businesses have been shut down, schools and universities have been forced to embrace remote learning and essential retail businesses must abide by strict guidelines as long as Murphy’s executive orders remain in effect.
A number of demonstrators gathered in Trenton on Friday to protest Murphy’s law.
“In Trenton, the subject who organized the protest from yesterday is pending charges not so much for the protest itself but for not having the social distance involved with being in a large gathering,” Col. Pat Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said Saturday afternoon at Murphy’s press briefing.
A quarter-mile from where @GovMurphy and health commissioner told reporters that social distancing was working, this maskless, open-Jersey demo popped up. Peak has yet to hit Central/South. Movement using these hashtags: #ReopenNewJersey #ReopenAmerica pic.twitter.com/plkdjDeoEr
— Elise Young (@EliseOnDeadline) April 17, 2020
Stephanie Locricchio, a protester who participated in Friday’s demonstration, described it as peaceful and compliant.
“We have the right to peaceful protest,” she said Friday evening via Facebook video. “We maintained social distance today. We were respectful. We stayed in our cars. We made sure that we were following the rules to the best of our ability, and I think that we did a great job.”
Murphy on Saturday urged Garden State residents to abide by the social distancing guidelines.
“I respect your right to protest,” he said, “but trust us on this, we’re basing this on the facts. Please stay home.”
One of the things that threw Locricchio “over the edge,” she said, is when Murphy ordered state and county parks closed.
“I can’t go walk in a public park,” she said. “That just makes me bananas.”
Murphy defended his executive orders on Saturday, describing them as responsible mandates based upon data.
“We didn’t run on an anti-park platform,” he said. “This is doing the right thing to keep people safe, keep ’em out of hospitals, and keep them alive.”
Locricchio acknowledged that COVID-19 is a deadly disease but suggested the government does not need to shutter parks in order to keep people safe.
“Protesting for constitutional freedoms does not take away from the fact that all of us are feeling the immense heaviness that is going on out there,” she said. “We are feeling the fact that people are being lost to this virus. We are feeling the fact that people in the hospitals are working really hard to keep people safe, and our elected officials are working really hard to make sure that everyone has what they need and they are doing what they think is the best thing that they can do.”
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