Citing the Bill of Rights and the “ideals of civil disobedience,” the owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, NJ, defied Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders by reopening on Monday. Cops “formally” notified the gym owner he was in violation of the shutdown order and then wished him “a good day.” The crowd cheered. Two days later, Atilis is still open.
Civil disobedience is alive and well, even in this pandemic.
Last week, a Texas judge told salon owner Shelley Luther that if she disagreed with lockdown rules in Dallas, she should “hire a lawyer” and sue. Sorry, but most working people can’t afford that. They protest instead. And disobey when laws become oppressive.
Lawyering has a place, though. In many states, business groups, churches and state representatives are suing to overturn what they claim are freedom-stifling rules imposed by autocratic governors. On Monday, an Oregon county judge struck down Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus restrictions, ruling that her emergency powers should last only a month; after that, she needs legislative approval. Brown is appealing.
Last week, a Wisconsin court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” regimen, when Evers tried to extend it until the end of May. The court said 28 days of emergency powers is enough.
Expect a similar outcome in Michigan, where the Legislature is suing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The governor, according to a Detroit News editorial, has “declared herself the sole and absolute power in Michigan.”
Although Whitmer is a Democrat, and the legislature mostly Republican, this isn’t mere partisan wrangling. Lawmakers offered to compromise on lockdown rules, and she refused. At stake is “whether Michigan remains a representative democracy even in times of crisis,” the Detroit News editors warn.
Also at stake is the right to earn a living. Karl Manke, a barber who reopened his shop in Owosso, Mich., two weeks ago, has been wearing a mask, washing his hands between customers and sanitizing his tools with UV light. He’s taking safety seriously.
Yet the authorities have slammed him with criminal misdemeanor charges. (The same, by the way, with the owner of Atilis gym in Jersey.) Both these business owners raise the some question: Why is it safe to walk down the aisles in Walmart but not in a smaller business? What makes big-box stores more “essential” than mom-and-pop shops?
The longer lockdowns drag on, the dumber rules get. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that beaches will be closed and anyone who dares swim will “be taken right out of the water.” Huh? Scientific evidence shows that being outside is extremely low risk, almost no risk, and swimming is undoubtedly the lowest.
Don’t count on the NYPD to drag out swimmers. Across the nation, cops have displayed common sense and sympathy for their neighbors. Four sheriffs’ departments in Michigan have announced they are refusing to enforce Whitmer’s orders. “With limited resources,” said the Shiawassee Co. sheriff, “our priority focus will be on enforcing duly passed laws.”