New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy embraced a clear double standard in his enforcement of COVID-19 precautions, saying the peaceful protests of the George Floyd’s killing are different from business owners protesting their inability to earn a living.
These protests, which aren’t always peaceful, include crowds of hundreds or thousands of people gathering and marching, with not everyone wearing masks, and people often seen hugging each other and certainly standing closer than the recommended six feet apart. They violate COVID-19 rules in every way.
“It’s one thing to protest what day nail salons are opening and it’s another to come out and peaceful protest about somebody who was murdered right before our eyes,” Murphy reportedly said, according to reporter Shlomo Schorr.
Restaurants in New Jersey won’t be allowed to open for outdoor dining until June 15. Salons and barbershops won’t be allowed to take customers until June 22, and even then they will be required to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Protests, Murphy claims, are subject to different rules for no other reason than he believes one cause to be more valid than the other.
While Murphy may have referred to nail salons dismissively, as if the primary concern is about people who haven’t been able to get their nails done, he fails to acknowledge that nail salons are businesses owned and operated by people who depend on them for essential income.
One might reasonably argue that, as important as the right to peacefully assemble in protest is, it is even more important that someone be allowed to earn a living. At the very least, it seems that the two concerns should be subject to the same rules.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a comment similar to Murphy’s recently, saying concerns from religious people who wanted to gather for services weren’t the same as protesting in the context of “400 years of American racism.“
The rhetoric around reopening states last month was legitimately apocalyptic, with detractors warning of spikes in deaths and overwhelmed hospitals if people were allowed to go to restaurants or stores. Now, some public health experts support mass gatherings, simply encouraging participants to be careful and social distance, if possible.