Owners of New Jersey gym kick down barriers and reopen in defiance of shutdown governor

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The owners of a gym in New Jersey have kicked aside barriers set up by police and reopened in defiance of a coronavirus shutdown order issued by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

Atilis Gym co-owner Ian Smith posted a video of himself and partner Frank Trumbetti on Instagram kicking in barriers and letting clients inside.


The act of defiance was the culmination of a standoff between the gym owners and a governor who is intent on keeping the business shuttered, even as other business owners in the state are allowed to remain in operation.

“I hate the fact that it has to come to this. Governor Murphy can portray us in whatever villainous way he wants, but our hands are forced here and that’s his fault,” the owners wrote in their video post.

“We are over 4 months into an economic shutdown that was supposed to be 14 days. It is time to end this and resume life in a safe and responsible manner,” the post continued.

“Small business is not solely responsible for the spread of the virus yet we are targeted as such and unfairly treated. You will not trample on our rights and you will not destroy our lives. We will not back down. Ever,” the owners added. “Please share this to show what lengths we have to go to just to make a living for our families.”

Their saga has become a rallying cry of sorts among American business owners struggling to remain viable amid endless coronavirus-related closures, even as other businesses are permitted to remain open.

Some small business owners including Trumbetti and Smith have been arrested for violating shutdown orders or fined for attempting to reopen so they can continue to earn a living.

The two gym owners were arrested Monday after defying a court order to permit authorities to shut down their business. On Friday, Smith posted a video saying he would move to knock down the plywood barriers placed over the doorway to his gym.

He said New Jersey authorities installed the barriers after he and others took the doors to the gym off of their hinges to keep state officials from changing the locks once more.


“We didn’t pick this fight. This fight came to us. Frank and I made a promise to each other that we would see this thing all the way through – no matter what,” Smith wrote in a separate Instagram post.

“We have not broken any laws, yet we are being treated like criminals. Tyrants use force to exercise their will – threat of imprisonment, financial ruin, and more,” he added. “And a tyrant is what we have in office.”

“No science, no data, only conclusive statements with no proof. We presented a plan, a sensible one and opened responsibly – and you decided to make it personal, so now here we are,” Smith continued.

“You will not tread on my rights, you will not ruin everything we’ve worked our whole lives for, and you will be held responsible for your trespasses.”

Reports last week noted that Sweden, which never implemented a total lockdown over the coronavirus, is continuing to function without much in the way of mask-wearing or social distancing, and without major spikes in the virus.

“The seven-day rolling average of Sweden’s daily new cases has been dropping consistently since June 29. Its daily case count has been mostly decreasing since June 24, when it reported 1,803 new infections, its largest single-day spike since the outbreak began, according to data compiled by Worldometer,” Newsweek reported.


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Jon Dougherty


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