TRENTON — During Tuesday’s COVID-19 update in Trenton, as Gov. Phil Murphy announced an additional 402 deaths in New Jersey from the novel coronavirus virus, dozens of protestors, some wearing masks, called on the governor to re-open the Garden State immediately.

Some protesters claimed the state’s stay-at-home directive is illegal and is a form of fascism.

“This notion of fascism is ridiculous," Murphy said when asked about the claim. "We’re trying to save lives. And I appreciate all the American flags that I see out there — God bless each and every one of them. I want everybody to know I’ve got five in my house."

“This isn’t a question of patriotism, this is a question of doing what’s right. Who’s a patriot and who isn’t — we’re in here trying to save lives every single day," Murphy added.

“We love our country, we love our state, we’re trying to save lives. We respect anyone who protests — I wish they would do it virtually. The real issue I’ve got is congregation. I worry about people congregating right now. We cannot have people doing that.”

State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said troopers have been told to use discretion to allow protesters to be heard. But the protestors must also adhere to the social-distancing directive.

This is the latest modest demonstration against the state government's response to the pandemic. Two weeks ago, police charged a woman who was part of about three dozen protestors near the Statehouse with violating the social-distancing directive.

A recent poll of New Jersey found that a majority approve of the state's handling of the health crisis. Those who believed that the government had gone too far were outnumbers by those who worried that the state had not gone far enough.

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com