When the doors of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, opened at 8 a.m. Monday in defiance of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's coronavirus shutdown order, WPVI-TV said a collective cheer was heard from a crowd of supporters gathered outside.
Some in the crowd — which began forming hours earlier, the station said — carried American and Trump 2020 flags and chanted "USA!" and "Let's get back to work!"
What's the background?
Gyms were among the nonessential businesses that Murphy ordered closed March 16 to fight the spread of the coronavirus, PhillyVoice reported. And while such businesses can begin curbside pickup and delivery Monday, customers aren't allowed inside stores and purchases must be done in advance by phone or online, the outlet said.
Naturally gyms can't operate under those conditions, but the co-owners of Attlis Gym are reopening anyway.
Co-owner Frank Trumbetti appeared on a video posted to the gym's Facebook page last week, explaining he and co-owner Ian Smith are reopening early "to fight for our rights. The government has failed at protecting our rights and [is] failing at protecting our health."
Trumbetti said that they're "proposing an organized peaceful reopening of the state, not just our business. We truly believe that if we don't do this, in the end we will have zero rights and no say in what happens."
He added that they're taking the coronavirus seriously, and that his mother contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital for another illness and that his wife is an emergency room pediatric nurse.
"We would like to get all the support we can all day long," Trumbetti said on the clip of the Monday reopen, adding that members would be allowed to enter according to "safe distancing guidelines," exercise, and then "stick around all day as a sign of solidarity for our rights as citizens of this great country."
The owners said signs are posted outside telling members to adhere to social distancing, WPVI reported, adding that capacity is limited to 44 members at a time and that bottles of disinfectant are available to wipe down equipment, which has been spread apart.
'Enough is enough'
Co-owner Ian Smith appeared on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" last week and said Murphy's shutdown order is a "gross violation" of the constitutional rights of New Jersey residents.
"Enough is enough," Smith said. "We've gotten to the point where I've watched so many businesses around me collapse. I've watched people lose their jobs, and there's no progress moving forward. So we're ready to take action ourselves, and we have thought long and we thought hard about it. And all of our actions come from the heart, with not our best interests in mind, but what we feel is the greater good for ourselves, our community, and the state and nation at whole."
Murphy was asked about Atilis Gym the day after Carlson interviewed Smith, and PhillyVoice reported that the governor replied, "He's out of compliance, and that's not going to be tolerated."
Smith insisted that he and Trumbetti are "prepared for any and all consequences. Our actions on Monday are going to be grounded in the ideals of civil disobedience. What we intend to showcase is that we reject the premise of essential versus nonessential businesses. Anything that Walmart can do with hundreds, if not thousands, of people passing through the stores every day touching everything in sight, a small business — whether it be a restaurant, a gym, a hair salon, or anything else — can replicate those things."