The first indicator were the three helicopters hovering overhead, but that was just the beginning. There were also officers from the sheriff’s office stranding guard. The tone of the gathering was not exactly jovial; rather the people gathered were incensed, angry about how the newest wave of shutdowns in Staten Island’s “orange zone” arbitrarily hampers small businesses from operating profitably, keeping families from having food on their tables.
The focus of the gathering was Mac’s Public House, the now-infamous Grant City tavern that quite openly defied the shutdown order. Owner Keith McAlarney brazenly declared his bar an “autonomous zone,” just as ANTIFA and BLM protesters had in numerous locales during protests following the death of George Floyd earlier this year.
While police respected these zones set up by the Left in places like Seattle and City Hall park, COVID risks be damned, apparently if you’re not a socialist, such protections do not apply. In America, you can embrace any political views you choose to. However, there is such a concept of equal protection under the law,and that means selective enforcement is not permissible.
Local patriot-artists and social activist Scott LoBaido, ever seeking new ways to encourage freedom, cleverly conceived the idea of the autonomous zone, and also helped organize Wednesday night’s protest. Scott had this to say, ““Patriotism is not just hanging your flags out on the Fourth of July…you know what’s patriotism? This is f***ing patriotism!”
Tuesday evening, owner Danny Presti was arrested, making world headlines, his establishment shut down by the sheriff’s office for openly defying the COVID-19 shutdown order, as a partial vacate order was issued. While the zip code of Mac’s Public House has an infection rate of 8.62%, the highest in NYC, the crowd felt that shutting down small businesses was not the answer, especially while super-spreader sites like supermarkets and big box stores remained open, without any restrictions on their operations.
The protest began at 6 PM and continued until after 9. However, the real fireworks began the day before when Senator Andrew Lanza attempted to enter the pub, after it had been officially shut down, quickly turning back once it became apparent that he would be restrained and arrested by the sheriff’s officers guarding the entrance if he continued.
It all began when Keith McAlarney, the bar’s owner, flouted Governor Cuomo’s 10 PM curfew, continuing to serve food and drink to hungry and thirsty patrons. After a number of cease-and-desist orders, culminating in the loss of the bar’s liquor license, Mac’s continued to serve people, now as guests rather than paying customers, free of charge, in exchange for “donations,” non-mandatory payments in exchange for service.
The initial fine was $15,000, a steep price for disobeying the shutdown order.
McAlarney even taunted Mayor “de Bozo,” as he had called him, to come down himself and remove the liquor license from the wall of the bar. Noncompliance and resistance are part and parcel of American History; what went on in Grant City is in keeping with our heritage. “Don’t tread on me,” was a motto here centuries ago for a reason, and it lives on in the words and deeds of brave islanders risking all to defend their convictions, businesses, and livelihoods.
McAlarney doubled down on his position and refused to concede: “I’m allowed to be inside my private property. I pay my rent…they’re saying right now I can’t serve food and I can’t serve alcohol!”
“This owner is learning that actions have consequences,” opined Jack Sterne, one of Governor Cuomo’s spokesmen. “Breaking the law and putting your neighbors’ lives at risk during a global pandemic to make a political statement is simply unacceptable.”
However, what it really looks like is that the people of Staten Island and surrounding areas – some gatherers were from as far as long Island – viewed arbitrary enforcement as unfair and un-American, and the crackdown on Mac’s just another chapter in this saga of standing up to oppression.
McAlarney addressed the crowd thusly: “Okay…In Staten Island, if you’re White, and you’re Christian, and you own a business, and you got a contract, Cuomo-Leone’s mutt hit-squad [pointing to sheriff’s officers]..they’re going to lock you up!” What followed? The crowd began chanting, “LET HIM IN!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!”
One attendee of the protest, a self-described U.S. Armed Forces Veteran, had this to say to the sheriff’s officers, “We fight for you, you stupid f**ks!”
Other speakers included Scott LoBaido and Marko Kepi, as well as speakers who were of immigrants parents who fled communist Cuba, whose parents warned them that these sorts of tactics and instances of over-reach were the first stages of tyranny.
One woman who chose not to give her name or appear on camera had this to say to Staten Islander reporters, “Why can Black Lives Matter have a gathering of 10,000 people, no one wearing masks, and COVID isn’t a threat? If you’re going to enforce these rules, you got to do it fairly. It’s either for everyone or no one. You can’t pick and choose one group or another. And, that’s what’s happening here. There are people here of all races. But somehow this is different?”