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New Jersey gym opens for second day in defiance of state order

"We truly believe that if we don't do this, in the end, we will have zero rights and no say in what happens," gym co-owner Frank Trumbetti said.
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A police officer issues Atilis Gym co-owners Ian Smith, left, and Frank Trumbetti summons outside their gym in Bellmawr, N.J., on May 19, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP

A gym in New Jersey opened for a second day Tuesday in defiance of the governor's stay-at-home order.

Supporters of Atilis Gym co-owners Ian Smith Frank Trumbetti keep vigil outside the gym in Bellmawr, N.J., on May 19, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP

The police department in Bellmawr, about 10 miles southeast of Philadelphia, said in a statement that Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith, owners of Atilis Gym, defied an executive order by the New Jersey governor closing recreational and entertainment businesses as long as the order remains in effect.

Trumbetti and Smith were both charged on a summons with a disorderly person's offense for the second day in a row, according to police.

Five others were issued summons violations after utilizing Atilis Gym, one person was charged with organizing a protest in violation of the governor’s order and one was charged with obstructing the administration of law, the statement said.

A crowd of supporters erupted into chants of "U.S.A." at Atilis Gym when it reopened shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, two months after Gov. Phil Murphy on March 16 announced an order closing fitness centers, casinos, concert venues and movie theaters to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Trumbetti, 51, posted a video on the business's Facebook page last week that urged supporters to attend Monday's reopening and addressed critics.

"We thought that is was more important to respond to all those out there who, for some reason, think that this is selfish of us to do and that for some reason we don't take the threat of this virus seriously," Trumbetti said.

The video had been viewed more than 19,000 times as of Tuesday.

Trumbetti said that he and Smith were reopening to fight for their rights.

"The government has failed at protecting our rights and failing at protecting our health," Trumbetti said. "We are proposing an organized peaceful reopening of the state, not just our business.

"We truly believe that if we don't do this, in the end, we will have zero rights and no say in what happens," Trumbetti said.

Trumbetti said his wife is a pediatric emergency room nurse whose safety he fears for every day that she goes to work. He also disclosed that his mother has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"I probably take this more seriously than probably almost anybody you know," he said in the Facebook video. "So to everyone out there, please stop with that foolishness because this is not what this is about."

The gym had announced on Facebook that when it reopened, it would be operating at 20 percent capacity, would not accept new clients and would require all who use the facility to wear masks unless they are in the middle of an exercise set. Clients were to have their temperatures taken before entry, and anyone at 100.4 or above would be be turned away. Showers and lockers would be off-limits, and some areas of the facility were to be taped off.

Neither Trumbetti nor Smith could immediately be reached for an interview Tuesday, and calls to the gym went unanswered.

There have been at least 149,013 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New Jersey, with 10,586 deaths as of Tuesday, according to state health data.

A GoFundMe started to cover any legal expenses of the gym owners and to support their efforts to reopen has raised more than $20,000 toward a goal of $100,000.