GOP Assemblyman: N.J. Gov. Murphy broke own order marching in protests

Gov. Phil Murphy at BLM protest

Gov. Phil Murphy joins a Black Lives Matter protest in Hillside, New Jersey, on Sunday, June 7, 2020 (Edwin J. Torres/ N.J. Governor’s Office).

A North Jersey Assemblyman has accused Gov. Phil Murphy of twice violating his own executive order that limits the size of gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris Plains, wrote in a letter to State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan that “photographic and written evidence on social media indicates that one Philip Dunton Murphy of Middletown openly and brazenly defied Executive Order 148 by purposely, repeatedly, and wantonly associating with others in groups greater than 25 individuals, and aiding and abetting such behavior.”

Webber said the violations occurred Sunday in Westfield and Hillside, referencing the locations of two Black Lives Matter protests the governor participated in Sunday.

Murphy was seen at the Hillside march carrying a banner that said “Hillside Strong March to End Racism, Police Brutality & Embrace Diversity.”

He attended the Westfield event at the invitation of Nala Angella Scott, a junior at Westfield High School.

Webber said Murphy’s behavior “appears to merit a criminal citation for violations pursuant [to state law].”

While the executive order makes references to limiting the number of people at outdoor gatherings to slow the spread of COVID, there is nothing in the order that explicitly refers to protests.

Webber ended the letter notifying Callahan that Murphy would be seated “about 15 feet to your right at 2:30 p.m. [Monday] at the War Memorial in Trenton;” referring to when Murphy is expected to give the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

“I trust you will uphold your public duty to the fair and consistent enforcement of our laws at that time,” Webber wrote to close the letter.

GOP state party chairman Doug Steinardt said Murphy was picking “winners and losers” by blurring the line between protests “worthy of participation and those deserving of prosecution.”

People who organized protests of Murphy’s orders have been ticketed for convening gatherings larger than allowed. His administration also had businesses that opened in defiance of his orders ticketed and closed.

Murphy defended his attendance at the protests during Monday’s briefing.  He said that enforcement of his executive order was up to local law enforcement and that the “very few” citations related to COVID-19 have been issued to the organizers.

“This is a moment in time, perhaps, unlike any in our nation’s history,” Murphy said.

“I can’t imagine what it would look like if we said to people ‘you have to stay in, you have to ignore systemic racism; just ignore it, you have to stay inside, you can’t go out and voice your rightful anger,’” he added.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

20200608 Letter to Callahan by WHYY News on Scribd

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