Fans of the extreme right-wing group “Proud Boys” were among hundreds of people present at a protest against the closure of a New York bar that openly displayed the COVID 19 guidelines.
The huge crowd gathered in front of Mac’s Public House in Staten Island on Wednesday night to show support for the company, which has declared itself an “autonomous zone” and continues to serve customers despite the area’s ban on indoor dining due to the high rate of coronavirus infection.
The bar was closed on Tuesday and its co-owner Danny Presti was arrested after ignoring the city sheriff’s order to stop serving customers indoors.
“Proud Boys in the house,” the New York Post reported, called out a handful of people during the protests outside Mac’s Public House. Another man urged the crowd to chant “I am a proud Western chauvinist” before moving on to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.
Earlier in the day, Andrew Lanza, Republican State Senator, was almost arrested after trying to force his way past several sheriff deputies into Mac’s Public House.
Lanza was told that only the bar owner’s lawyers had access to the bar, which he said he would be their “free lawyer,” Advance/SILive.com reported.
Lanza then tried to create a makeshift cardboard lawyer’s advance, which he and co-owner Keith McAlarney signed to make a “legally binding” contract. As he tried to make his way through the door, Lanza was handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies who put their hands behind his back as if they wanted to handcuff him, but in the end he was not arrested.
“Somebody has to stand up for the little guy, and that’s what I’m trying to do here,” Lanza said. “People are frustrated, they are angry, and they are a little defiant. And that’s understandable.”
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Mac’s has become a focal point in the mainly Republican district after its owners declared it an “autonomous zone” on November 20. It has attempted to circumvent the pandemic containment laws by serving food and alcohol free of charge in exchange for a contribution.
“We refuse to abide by the rules and regulations proposed by the Mayor of NYC and the Governor of the State of NYC,” the Bar Association said on its Facebook page.
“I’ve been trying to get their attention so that they will work with the industry rather than being lazy with their decisions and just close things up,” McAlarney told The New York Times on Wednesday night within the company.
Health experts have hinted that bars have been a major contributor to the spread of the virus in the city. McAlarney is not convinced and said people should be able to make their own decisions.
“If you feel that it is not safe to go out, then choose to stay home,” he said.
In a statement to the Times, Jack Sterne, a spokesman for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, criticized McAlarney for saying that what he said was tantamount to a political stunt.
“This owner learns that actions have consequences,” Sterne said. “Breaking the law and risking the lives of your neighbors during a global pandemic to make a political statement is simply not acceptable.
According to reports, there were no arrests or major incidents as a result of the protest. The New York City Sheriff’s Office has been asked to comment.