The New Jersey venue where at least 150 people gathered Thursday night for the annual New York Young Republican Club gala was closed on Friday amid public outcry and another wave of coronavirus in the tri-state area .
The 108th annual gala – which was supposed to feature star speaker Sarah Palin before stepping down – took place at Maritime Parc in Jersey City’s Liberty State Park after the group appeared to abandon plans to hold it on the other side of the river in New York. Videos and images posted on Twitter showed participants gathered inside, flouting COVID-19 guidelines.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop called the event a “flagrant violation” of state restrictions against COVID-19. In a statement to the Daily Beast on Friday morning, he said “the facility was ordered to close” until he submits a written operational plan to the Department of Health on how it is complying with mandates. capacity and wearing a mask.
“The Department of Health and the prosecutor’s office are taking COVID enforcement seriously,” Fulop said.
But while the GOP event – to which Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe also spoke– sparked outrage from New Jersey officials, those present did not seem to care about the ongoing pandemic.
It appears that the event took place in a private space, dubbed the Sky Room, on the second floor of the Maritime Park. The room can accommodate up to 500 people seated, with views of southern Manhattan and a wraparound 270-degree outdoor patio.
According to group chairman Gavin Wax, 26, the event only hosted “about 150 people” to hear from Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, a Trump loyalist who sadly wore a gas mask on ground of Congress. before voting on COVID-19 relief legislation.
A guest, Joel Fischer, posed for a selfie with the Florida lawmaker who showed unmasked guest tables behind the pair. “Hi @NYGovCuomo. Come get me, ”Fischer wrote, apparently mocking Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his state’s strict COVID-19 guidelines.
Another set of photos posted by Wax showed guests huddled together, smiling, without masks. “Eat Antifa shit. God bless America, ”the 26-year-old wrote.
A video posted by lawyer Ron Coleman with the caption: “Oh oh. The Rona has come loose, ”shows dozens of guests flying around Gaetz. The Maritime Park did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily Beast.
New Jersey limits indoor gatherings to 10 people, except for “religious and political activities protected by the First Amendment.” Exempt gatherings can involve up to 150 people in an indoor space, but social distancing and mask wearing are mandatory. In New York City, where the Young Republican Club event is usually held, there is a 50-person limit for indoor gatherings.
The strict guidelines prompted Wax to keep details of the event’s location a secret, even hinting at The Daily Beast earlier this week that the event was still to be held in New York City.
The original venue for the party, The Caldwell Factory, has a capacity of 500, but it turned out that the plan to hold it there was scrapped as outrage grew. The venue name was suddenly removed from the Eventbrite page for the gala on Tuesday, which later said the venue was to “be announced.”
Asked about the change of venue on Friday, Wax insisted the gala was still supposed to be held in the Jersey City event space and that the venue was finalized at least two months ago. Wax also confirmed that attendance was around 150 guests and did not mention any COVID-19 restrictions in place to mitigate the potential spread of the virus.
“New Jersey has much more lax rules,” Wax said. “He’s been in New Jersey for a while. We never ‘ran over there’ we saw we could do 150 people in New Jersey versus 50 people in New York and that made more sense.
The club has a history dating back to the mid-19th century but, as reported by The Daily Beast, they took a sharp right turn during the Trump presidency, inviting anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, conspiracy theory Jack Posobiec, and Mike Cernovich, Pizzagate enthusiast, takes the floor.
Earlier this week, Wax said in a statement that “our club has held its annual gala continuously for the past 107 years, through two world wars and the Spanish flu”.
“We thought it was important as an institution to carry on this great heritage and this tradition,” he continued. “In doing so, we will comply with all state-imposed capacity limits and social distancing requirements. Masks will be required when participants are not seated and temperatures will be taken at [the] door.”
Friday, Wax doubled, insist on the gala was “in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations” and stating that any suggestion “to the contrary and any legal threat is made in bad faith and politically motivated”.
“As far as we know, the First Amendment has not been repealed,” he tweeted before adding a follow-up post: “The nihilist left projects itself when it calls the NYYRC a ‘cult of death’. We are exactly the opposite. We embrace life and life as you all curl up in your pods worried about disease with over 99% survival rate.
Once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, New York and its neighboring states have put in place strict guidelines to stop its spread. But New York’s current positivity rate, 5%, is now at its highest since April. Across the river, New Jersey is also seeing an increase in cases. The New Jersey Department of Health reported on Friday that 15,373 residents had died and another 350,999 were infected.
Gaetz’s in-person appearance also defies New York and New Jersey guidelines, as both states have established quarantine guidelines for those traveling from hotspot states. If the Florida lawmaker had traveled to New Jersey from the Sunshine State, he would have had to quarantine himself for at least three days before being tested for New York State rules, and until to 14 days to comply with New Jersey guidelines.
“I feel bad for the people who “had to” work and I can’t believe management would put them in this position.“
Varick Boyd, who worked at the Maritime Park several years ago, told the Daily Beast he first learned of the event through one of Coleman’s tweets and “immediately recognized the views “.
He said he was “no longer surprised by people’s behavior”, but felt sad that former colleagues were forced to risk their lives and the health of their family members during the holiday season to keep their jobs.
“In general, I feel bad for the people who ‘had to’ work and I can’t believe management would put them in this position. Participants can do whatever they want, but it is selfish to force others to serve you so that you can have a secret part of owning the libraries. Their words are not mine, ”said Boyd, 51, adding that Coleman had since blocked him on Twitter.
“I find it strange that the Young Republicans of New York are having an event in New Jersey. I also find it strange that they were able to violate all of the NJ restrictions placed on the state.
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