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Shutdown Showdown

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

For more than two months, millions of Americans have obeyed draconian shutdown orders, even as their livelihoods have been put in considerable jeopardy. It seems the tide is turning. 


Across the country, patriots are defying these misguided, unconstitutional orders, by reopening their businesses and returning to work. These courageous people should be lauded for their brave acts of civil disobedience.

In mid-March, Americans were told the unprecedented shutdown measures were necessary to “flatten the curve” and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.

As of now, both of those goals have been achieved. However, despite data showing that the coronavirus pandemic has been tamed, strict shutdown orders remain in states throughout the nation.

Fortunately, Americans are standing up for their constitutional rights and engaging in civil disobedience—a hallmark American attribute. From the very beginning, all the way back to the colonial period, Americans have fought against tyranny. Throughout the history of America, brave men and women have given their lives to ensure that civil liberties are protected and tyranny remains foreign to our shores.

Yet, in 2020, as America approaches its 250th anniversary, far too many governors, mayors, and others are exhibiting dictatorial behavior by issuing edicts that are blatantly unconstitutional. In short, governors and mayors cannot make laws. State legislatures and city councils reserve this power.


However, in New Jersey, for example, Gov. Murphy has sidestepped the legislature and basically declared himself dictator by default, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Murphy, along with many other governors, ordered a statewide shutdown that seems to have no end in sight. As such, New Jerseyans are caught in a diabolical dilemma: Should they obey Gov. Murphy, even though his executive order is nonsensical and counterproductive, or should they defy the dictator and reassert their fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Well, it seems certainly obvious that at least some residents of the Garden State have chosen the latter. Exhibit A: The owners of Atillis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey. Despite being harassed and threatened by Gov. Murphy and his minions for the past three days, the owners of Atillis Gym remain defiant in keeping their gym open to their private members.

According to co-owner Frank Trumbetti, “We have stood firm, as long as we let members in, we are not doing anything that’s against the law and criminal.” Co-owner Ian Smith added, “If they shut us down today, we’ll reopen tomorrow.”

Gov. Murphy responded with, “I’m not concerned it will spiral out of control, and we will take action. If you show up at that gym again tomorrow, there’s going to be a different reality than showing up today. These aren’t just words. We’ve got to enforce this, but I also don’t want to start World War III.” This statement should send a chill down the spine of every single American.


As of this writing, Atillis Gym is currently closed because the New Jersey Department of Health has ordered an embargo. According to Trumbetti, “The [health department] paperwork that’s on the window, we don’t know if it’s actually deemed legal or not because they put it on in the middle of the night. We were not served with those papers.”

Staying true to their beliefs, Trumbetti and Smith said they will still hold workouts for members in the parking lot until the health department situation is adjudicated. Good for them.

And good for all the patriots who continue to patronize Atillis Gym, despite being cited for defying Murphy’s executive order. In fact, one member was arrested simply because he refused to provide his name to authorities after leaving the gym.

Atllis Gym has been around since 1974. It has taken the utmost precautions to maintain the health and safety of its employees and members before reopening this week. Moreover, its members voluntarily showed up to work out, nobody is forcing them to do so. This same dynamic is happening across the nation, with regards to mom-and-pop-shops, salons, restaurants, etc.

We need to remember in the situation of Atillis Gym, the state (literally, in this case) is using force and the threat of future force to prevent American citizens from enjoying their guaranteed constitutional rights. This is un-American. Enough is enough.


As Memorial Day approaches, and the weather heats up, one should except several more showdowns over shutdowns. Will freedom and personal liberty prevail, or will tyranny triumph? Time will tell. I, for one, am betting on the former.

Chris Talgo ( is an editor at The Heartland Institute.

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