Protest organizer: We hope Murphy heard us, won’t order shutdown
MORRISTOWN — A protest march against Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders drew between 100 and 150 people on Sunday, according to organizer Heather Darling and the group We the People New Jersey.
Darling, the elected Republican county surrogate and a small business owner in Morris County, said the goal of the march from Morris Township's police department to Morristown Town Hall to tell Murphy lockdowns of businesses and restaurants are not necessary, despite the growing number of positive coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the state.
"It went incredibly well. The group just came together last Sunday for the first time and came up with this idea. They implemented it very well. Between the two locations we probably ended up with 150 people total, which I think is a very good showing," Darling told New Jersey 101.5.
Darling said the group's was met by some opponents of its message as well, but she welcomed their right to be heard.
A number of people affected by Murphy's executive orders spoke to the crowd including an 18-year-old high school student who has decided to enlist in the military, a college student who did not feel that school was the same for her learning from home during the spring, the mother of a 5-year-old whose child cried when she couldn't spend time with her friends and a restaurant owner preparing for Thanksgiving who had to shut down when an employee tested positive for coronavirus without showing any symptoms, Darling said.
"It was really moving for people who were there. There was some negativity from people who said 'how dare you, we need to protect ourselves.' The whole notion behind this is personal choice and personal responsibility," Darling said. "We're not advocating for people not to protect themselves and we're not advocating for people to not wear masks and things like that. They're advocating to protect yourself and if that means stay home then do so."
She said she favors mask use.
The group does not have another event planned, but might if Murphy issues further executive orders restricting activity in New Jersey.
"We're hoping that he listened and if he did then further action will be required. It's not about a wholesale reopening. It's about not closing again, about not foreclosing people's economic opportunities," Darling said.
Murphy recently reduced limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, and prohibited indoor dining at restaurants and bars between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Murphy has said he'd be reluctant to order a stricter shutdown and doesn't believe indoor dining is closely tied with New Jersey's increase in cases -- but that all options are on the table.
The governor has also said he considers in-person education vital for New Jersey's schoolchildren, though many districts are independently deciding to go all-remote for the next few weeks or months.
"You shut non-essential workplace or indoor dining, you're basically putting a bullet in them. Unless we see explicit transmission coming out of there, that's blood on our hands in a different respect," Murphy said at Friday's coronavirus briefing.