Coronavirus News: 'Freedom March of NJ' protest held at Jersey Shore

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, New Jersey (WABC) -- A Reopen New Jersey protest and march was held in the state Monday amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, featuring lawmakers from both parties.

The "Freedom March of NJ" took place in Point Pleasant Beach, where the boardwalk remains closed.

"People said, 'Why are you going to Point Pleasant?' Because it's closed," one speaker said. "That's why we're here. Point Pleasant is closed."

Democratic State Assemblyman Jamel Holley and Republican Senator Joe "Jersey Joe" Pennachio both spoke at the event, as did Ian Smith and Kyle Newell, co-owers of the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr that was shut down after reopening in defiance of Governor Phil Murphy's order.

Governor Phil Murphy said he respected the efforts of those at the rally, but he insisted he was focused on public safety.

"I don't begrudge their right to protest, but they don't sway me," Governor Phil Murphy told CNN. "The only thing that sways me are the facts and the data and the science. And listen, I want to open salons and gyms as much as anybody, but I think folks know this, but when you talk about indoors, lack of ventilation, close proximity, sedentary...we're not there yet. I want to do it responsibly, and I don't want to kill anybody."

Point Pleasant Beach police expected large crowds for the event, held at the Silver Lake parking lot at Arnold and Ocean avenues.

"We respect everyone's rights to assemble and peacefully protest," Police Chief Joseph Michigan wrote on Facebook. "However, in an abundance of caution, visitors should expect to see a very high visible law enforcement presence."

The protesters were demanding that nonessential businesses be allowed to reopen as the summer gets underway at the Jersey Shore. Most in attendance were not wearing masks.

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