Two New Jersey men named Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti are facing fines of $10,000 per day and jail time for the horrendous crime of… opening their gym.
Pursuant to Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order, gyms are still not allowed to be open except for one-on-one personal training. But that did not stop Smith and Trumbetti from opening Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey. Back in May, the gym opened in defiance of the stay-at-home order. Supporters holding American flags and chanting “Reopen New Jersey,” “We are not afraid,” and “Murphy’s a tyrant” filled the parking lot. State officials issued summonses for disorderly conduct to the owners and ordered the gym to close. In June, the gym was allowed to open again for nutrition and clothing sales only, but they soon began welcoming customers for indoor workouts. Since then, the gym has been issued 14 citations and has been ordered to close by a judge. Smith and Trumbetti steadfastly refused and were arrested on July 27 for contempt of court, obstruction, and violation of a disaster control law. After they got out of jail, they removed the gym’s front doors so that state officials could not change the locks. In response, state officials boarded up the entrance with plywood. Then, Smith and Trumbetti kicked down the plywood barricades in front of a cheering crowd and once again allowed members into the gym. Now the state is pushing to impose fines of $10,000 per day as well as additional jail time.
“I am grateful that the court recognized the need for compliance,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal when a judge initially ordered Atilis Gym to close. “The vast majority of businesses and residents are following these rules and doing their part to keep their friends and neighbors safe, and those few companies who flout our Executive Orders are once again on notice that we will hold them accountable, and that there will be serious consequences for their actions.”
This statement is typical of the authoritarian attitudes that so many government officials have adopted during the Covid pandemic. Neither the gym’s owners nor its customers are doing anything wrong – each person has the right to decide for himself or herself how best to balance safety and quality of life amidst the pandemic. No one is obligated to follow unjust rules, and no one should be punished for merely operating a business and providing a place for their fellow citizens to exercise. This talk of compliance, consequences, and being held accountable is nothing short of Orwellian.
Smith and Trumbetti have sued Murphy and his administration, alleging that his restrictions are unconstitutional. “The government has to trust its citizens at some point, and say — you know what, everybody needs to be responsible,” said their lawyer, James Mermigis. “We all know how contagious and horrible this disease can be, I’m not disputing that at all, but there needs to be a balance”
Interviewed by Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Trumbetti vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court. “Good luck,” Trumbetti said. “You’re going to be violating our Constitutional rights, and we’ll go ahead with a lawsuit against them and we will stay in business… We will be open.”
“There’s no excuse for the way that we’ve been treated,” Smith added. “We started this peacefully and kept it peaceful the entire time.”
Right on. Salute to these two brave individuals who are standing up to tyranny.