ROXBURY, NJ – Gov. Phil Murphy is a hypocrite for supporting, and participating in Black Lives Matter protests while cracking down on others caught violating his COVID-19 orders against large gatherings, say two state lawmakers representing Roxbury.

State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) and state Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25) pointed to summonses issued last week to business owner Jennifer Rogers for hosting a rally in May where fellow small-business owners protested the closure orders.

Rogers, of Hackettstown, owns Randolph Tennis and Pickleball Center on Sussex Turnpike near the Randolph-Roxbury Border. She hosted a “Re-Open Businesses and Restore Livelihoods” rally at the site on May 30.

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Tickets in the Mail

Rogers was surprised when she received two summonses from Randolph police on June 6. The summonses accuse her of aiding and abetting a violation of a provision of a governor’s executive order and of violating an order, rule or regulation adopted by the governor. The tickets were signed by Randolph Police Lt. Keith Donovan.

Murphy’s order against gatherings is supposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. However, there have been dozens of large gatherings in New Jersey since Memorial Day as people accuse police of brutality against blacks, citing the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd during an arrest.

“While we understand and support the need for peaceful protests, it astounds us that the Governor continues to pick and choose which parts of his Executive Orders he enforces,” said Bucco in a statement. “While he marched shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of people yesterday across New Jersey, a business owner in our district who protested the Governor’s reopening policies last week received summonses from the State of New Jersey with fines up to $2,000 and the potential for one-year imprisonment for violating the Governor’s Executive Order.”

Historical Moment Waiver

Bucco, who serves as Roxbury’s township counsel, called Murphy’s behavior “outrageous” and said he trusts the municipal prosecutor “will understand the hypocrisy of this and dismiss the complaints.”

Over the weekend, Murphy participated in two large protests related to the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter issue. He did so after admitting, on Friday, that he was concerned over a spike in COVID-19 cases as a result of the protests. As of today, 12,214 people in New Jersey have died from the disease, according to the state.

Asked today about his decision to, essentially, violate his own order related to gatherings, the governor pointed to the historic nature of the protests and suggested they warrant exemption from adherence to his order.

“This is a moment that is bigger than any of us right now,” he said. “This is a moment in time perhaps unlike any in our nation’s history. There is an overwhelming feeling of anger and passion.”

Murphy also said it would have been impossible to ban the protest rallies.

“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. I’m sorry, you have to stay inside,’” he said. “I can’t imagine what that looks like as it relates to public safety.”

Picking and Choosing

Dunn contended Murphy’s endorsement of some protests, but not others, is an example of “do as I say, not as I do.” She said people should be “outraged” by his behavior.

“Clearly, while businesses are penalized with crushing fines and threats of imprisonment for holding a commonsense rally against the Governor’s policies, he ignores his own standards when it’s in his political interest to do so. That is fundamentally unfair and likely unconstitutional.”

One Roxbury resident who attended the small business rally in Randolph was Morris County Surrogate Heather Darling. She is also angry about the summonses issued to Rogers.

“This is simply arbitrary and capricious enforcement of executive orders that have been extended far too long without rhyme, reason or necessity,” said Darling, who is a lawyer and former Morris County freeholder.

Rogers said Randolph police attended her event and the only problem they had, at the time, were some cars parked in bad spots. "They gave me their cellphone numbers," she said. "They came in and out of the rally. They told my mom there would be no issue."

As of today, supporters of Rogers have raised nearly $6,000 via an online GoFundMe site that has a goal of raising $100,000.

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