More than 200 protesters gathered to defend a New Jersey gym that opened in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order and they won!
The Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey opened its doors early Monday morning after being forcibly closed by the government’s orders for nearly three months. The owners had contacted locals and asked that they come out to support the act of civil disobedience, and in the wee hours of the morning hundreds answered the call.
UPDATE: Local Police were ordered back to the gym after protesters dispersed. A citation and court date was issued.
It’s unclear whether the police returned on their own if they were ordered to from city administrators. They likely avoided causing a riot by issuing the notice in the presence of protesters.
UPDATE: Local police returned to the gym in the afternoon and handed citations to BOTH of Atilis Gym’s owners for “Disorderly Conduct” statute. “Violation of Executive Order” is handwritten over ‘Description of Offense’. Both now have scheduled June court date @fox29philly pic.twitter.com/s78H19uPo0— Steve Keeley (@KeeleyFox29) May 18, 2020
Protesters risked $1,000 fines in order to support the local gym.
Protesters chanting “let’s get back to work” filled up the gym parking lot holding protest signs condemning the governor’s decision to shutdown the state and demanding that some normalcy be returned to their daily lives.
Police were on scene and eventually one officer stepped forward to speak to the crowd. “Formally, you are all in violation of the executive order,” he began. Then he shocked the crowd with his follow up: “On that note, have a good day. Everybody be safe.”
“We are and only were here for everybody’s safety today. We planned for the worst and hoped for the best, and it seems like that’s what we have out here today,” one of the officers on scene said.
The passive acknowledgement of support from law enforcement officers on scene sent shock waves through the crowd as everyone erupted in cheers.
The owners of the gym, Ian Smith and Frank Trombetti, believe that if big box retailers like Walmart can remain open, there’s no reason that their gym must remain shuttered and their livelihoods destroyed. In order to ensure the safety of their patrons, Smith and Trombetti will only be operating the gym at 20% its normal capacity and implementing social distancing and sanitation procedures. You can read their rules below: