I’ve covered a lot of protests in my day, protests demanding all kinds of things, but Tuesday was the first time I’ve ever attended a protest where people were simply demanding the right to go to work at jobs they already have.
In Times Square Tuesday morning, an industry tired of being a scapegoat for hypocritical politicians who are destroying their livelihoods begged for the right to work. The right to feed their families, to buy their kids Christmas presents.
As one speaker put it, first in Spanish then in English, “We are tired of being the guinea pig of the government.”
And here’s the thing on that. The experiment was a success. The restaurants in New York City took temperatures, did contact tracing, maintained social distancing, and as a result Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s own data show that dining out is responsible for just 1.4 percent of the spread of the Chinese Virus.
Brian, a retired state auditor came out to support their cause. “I walked down from 72nd street,” he told me. “It’s terrible, people are hurting.”
A restaurant owner I spoke to told me the uncertainty was the worst part. He honestly has no idea if his business will survive another closure of indoor dining. And by the way, state taxes are due next week from these shuttered restaurants.
The crowd of a few hundred was loud, buoyant, and diverse. Among the groups present was the New York State Latino Restaurant, Bar & Lounge Association. They were handing out signs and t-shirts. This was far more organized than any of the other anti-lockdown protests I have seen in New York City. It speaks to the desperation these people feel as their ability to work for a living is stolen from them. They don’t want money from the government or their neighbors. They want to work, they want that dignity, and they deserve it.
This summer when New Yorkers were enjoying cocktails on St. Mark’s Place outside the bars and restaurants they couldn’t enter, our tough guy Emperor Cuomo tweeted out, “Don’t make me come down there.”
Don't make me come down there… https://t.co/OeVGMW7LEO
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 13, 2020
Well, governor why don’t you come down here now? Why don’t you come to these protests and explain to these New Yorkers that you are thrusting them out of work when your own data say their establishments are safe? What? Are you a little worried about how you’d be received? Worried they won’t be big fans of your self-congratulatory book? You should be.
If this decision by the governor is not reversed, if Cuomo insists on plunging tens of thousands into poverty based on his capricious whims when even his own science mocks his mandate, then we can expect these protests to continue. The people are speaking out loud and clear, the city is listening, but sadly the governor is not.
Instead, he insults these workers with talk of outdoor dining the day before the city is expecting a blizzard. Cuomo might be looking at a blizzard of his own as his autocratic job killing diktats send more and more New Yorkers to the bread lines.