As we’ve discussed here previously, state governors and mayors of large cities across the country have been busy issuing executive orders restricting the movement of their citizens and banning large gatherings of crowds in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But not everyone has been paying attention to those orders. This leaves us with the question of what the government plans to do when people continue to violate the instructions.
At least in New Jersey, we now have the answer. After Governor Phil Murphy banned any gatherings of ten or more people, police were summoned to a house party in Ewing Township where 47 people were dancing the night away with a DJ providing the music. The partygoers were dispersed and the host of the party was arrested and taken to jail. (NBC News)
Police in New Jersey broke up a house party in which 47 people crammed into a small apartment in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines, the state governor said. The organizer was charged.
“Last night, Ewing Township Police broke up a party with 47 people – including a DJ – crammed into a 550-square foot apartment,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press conference Saturday. “The organizer was charged, as they should have been and deserved to be.”
The party’s organizer was charged, the governor said. “No corona parties. They’re illegal, dangerous, and stupid. We will crash your party. You will pay a big fine.”
Murphy quickly took to Twitter to further vent his frustration.
Can’t believe I have to say this at all, let alone for the second time. But here we are.
NO CORONA PARTIES. They’re illegal, dangerous, and stupid.
We will crash your party. You will pay a big fine. And we will name & shame you until EVERYONE gets this message into their heads.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 28, 2020
The Garden State isn’t the only place where this was taking place. In Maryland, another guy was arrested for hosting 60 people at a bonfire.
Shawn Myers is charged with violating the Governor’s order limiting crowd size to 10. pic.twitter.com/7zT877RBhs
— Brad Bell (@ABC7Brad) March 29, 2020
While I still agree that social distancing is a smart move in terms of slowing the spread of the virus, particularly for those who are most at risk, we still need to wait and see how these arrests play out. No specifics have been offered as to what the party organizers will be charged with. I’ve yet to see any reports of states or cities passing new ordinances prohibiting such gatherings. Sending someone to jail or even just fining them for not complying with an executive mandate seems like it would be a dicey case for any prosecutor trying to bring home a conviction.
Further, how is it that only the host of the New Jersey party and the organizer of the Maryland bonfire were arrested? Even leaving aside the fact that there are no laws on the books barring people from hosting a party in their own home, all the New Jersey man did was send out the invitations. Isn’t everyone who showed up at his place when there were already ten people in attendance equally “guilty” of violating the order? In a sense, the last 37 people to arrive were all engaged in a conspiracy to violate the governor’s executive order along with the host. If they are all adults, they are responsible for their own actions and their decision to attend, no?
I have a hunch that most of these cases will simply be dropped with the accused being let off with a warning and sent home. I mean, nobody has the authority to simply pronounce them “guilty” and demand they pay a fine for breaking a law that isn’t even on the books. Or at least I certainly hope we haven’t reached the point where anyone can do that. If they do take the Jersey party animal to court, we’ll be sure to stay on top of that and see what the charge winds up being and if a judge is willing to go along with it. In any event, our new coronavirus social distancing police state continues to evolve. And until the pandemic passes, the courts will likely go along with these measures to an alarming degree.