In the latest example of what could be deemed an overreach by government officials during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a New Jersey woman has been charged with violating emergency orders by organizing a protest of the state-mandated lockdown orders.
Kim Pagan, a resident of Toms River, New Jersey, was issued a summons by the New Jersey State Police, according to the state’s Department of Law and Public Safety.
Her crime? She is charged with “violating the emergency orders by organizing a prohibited event.”
The charge sounds like something you would read about in a bad dystopian novel, but it is happening in the Garden State.
During the protest, drivers drove up, parked their cars and honked in front of the Statehouse and Murphy’s office. Some held signs, and about a dozen stood outside the building demanding the governor reopen the state, according to New Jersey 101.5.
Politico reported that a now-deleted Twitter video from the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce showed a long line of drivers honking their horns and waving American flags.
Demonstrators gathered in downtown Trenton, N.J., Friday morning to protest Gov. Phil Murphy’s “stay-at-home” order to combat the spread of coronavirus https://t.co/wRRate9wNi
— POLITICO (@politico) April 17, 2020
Vehicle protests where frustrated Americans have let their representatives know of their discontent from their cars have become a symbolic gesture meant to send a message that broad lockdowns are burdening the public as civil liberties have been suspended by overzealous state and local leaders.
Most protestors have remained seated in their cars — a safe distance away from other drivers.
Protest organized by @NewJersey4MF
Video by: @JohnEdmundsIV
Part 1 of 2 pic.twitter.com/Pl6hRlGv6Y
— EyesOnNJ News (@EyesOnNJ) April 18, 2020
Pagan was accused of violating the state’s strict social distancing guidelines and will now have to go before a judge.
“Kim Pagan of Toms River was charged by the New Jersey State Police with violating the emergency orders by organizing a prohibited event today in Trenton in which protesters gathered outside the State House and at other locations in Trenton to demonstrate against the Governor’s Executive Orders,” a blotter from the state’s daily COVID-19 enforcement update said.
Pagan could face six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
In a media briefing on Friday, Murphy acknowledged citizens’ right to protest, and said Pagan was cited “(n)ot so much for the protest itself, but for not having the social distance involved with being in a large gathering.”
“Listen, with all due respect, I think anybody who thinks we’re doing this just to take away people’s liberties and rights isn’t looking at the data that we’re looking at,” he explained. “We’re doing what we’re doing to try to save lives and keep as few people infected and hospitalized as possible.”
“We’re trying at every step of the way to make the right calls based on those facts and we will continue to do that. The minute we think we can begin to tweak this, open things up based on data and facts and science, we’re going to be out there doing just that.
“But in the meantime, I would just ask those folks, I respect your right to protest. But trust us on this, we’re basing this on the facts, please stay home.”
Gov. Murphy stated to Fox News host Tucker Carlson last week that he issued his state’s lockdown orders — and banned religious services, specifically — with a total disregard for the constitutional rights of his citizens.
“So I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this. We went to all, first of all, we looked at the data and the science and it says people have to stay away from each other,” Murphy told Carlson.
Murphy added that such constitutional thinking was above his “pay grade.”
Murphy joins other Democratic governors across the country in taking lockdown orders to the point where questions about their legality are valid.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer faced an auto protest after she banned all gatherings in her state and required stores to block areas dedicated to certain products, such as gardening supplies, Forbes reported.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam used his powers during the crisis to lockdown his state well into June, to limit Second Amendment rights, and to remove certain restrictions on abortion.
One thing these Democratic leaders seem to have in common is that they have gone to extreme lengths to restrict the free movement by their citizens, and are even prohibiting people from attending church services — even if those services are modified to keep congregants at a safe distance from one another.
While most people are taking the idea of social distancing seriously, do these governors truly expect their citizens not to say “enough” and stand up for their civil liberties?
While the coronavirus still poses a significant health risk, leaders at state and local levels should be finding ways to help their citizens safely leave their homes with the ultimate goal of getting people back to work, and with some sense of normalcy.
Ticketing frustrated citizens from their car windows doesn’t help anyone, and being charged with “organizing a prohibited event” while peacefully protesting has a profoundly unAmerican ring to it.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.