Hundreds of supporters crowded around the front of a New Jersey gym early Monday as the owner made good on his defiant vow to reopen at 8 a.m. despite the state’s order that all such facilities remain closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, unlocked the doors to allow a limited number of members to use the facility as local police cars ringed the strip mall parking lot and set up traffic control with barrels. Members were being checked for temperatures as they entered.
“If they shut us down today, we’ll reopen tomorrow,” Smith told the crowd, who had been gathered for hours waving American flags and signs in opposition to the state’s near-lockdown restrictions that have only recently begun to ease.
The crowd sang the National Anthem multiple times and yelled “reopen New Jersey now,” “all businesses is essential,” “we’re going back to work,” and “Trump 2020” at various points. A handful of those gathered wore face coverings, but the vast majority had no masks and were tightly clustered together on the sidewalk and parking area in front of the gym.
Smith made national news with an appearance on Fox when he announced his gym would be reopen regardless of the consequences. Gov. Phil Murphy said that would be clear violation of his executive order, when asked last week during a daily briefing on the outbreak.
“This is much bigger than opening a gym,” Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr said Sunday. “I have no doubt that we’re on the right side of this. Small businesses and individuals in this state are being absolutely strangled. The help is not there. We are absolutely decimating our economy doing this and we are destroying people’s lives.”
Murphy ordered fitness centers, movie theaters and casinos closed on March 16 in an effort to fight the pandemic.
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