STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Twenty-four hours after the owner of Mac’s Public House was led away in handcuffs for allegedly refusing to close his pub during the pandemic, a large crowd of Staten Islanders assembled outside the Grant City establishment to protest the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
A crowd of about 60 began assembling just after 5 p.m., with many carrying American flags and signs. One read: “Lock up criminals, not Americans.”
By the time the rally’s program started after 6 p.m., the crowd had swelled to several hundred, and a portion of Lincoln Avenue in front of the establishment was closed to traffic due to the crowd.
Protesters sang “God Bless America” as the rally’s 6 p.m. start time neared. The crowd also sang the chorus of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” by Twisted Sister.
One man, Michael, a Westerleigh resident, carried an American flag upside down, a sign the nation is in distress.
“We are being subjugated by our own government,” he said.
News helicopters hovered over the demonstration and there was a large media presence.
“To me this is a revolution,” said Christine Salica of Westerleigh, a make-up artist who has been out of work since March. “[Gov. Andrew] Cuomo and his legislators are collecting our paychecks and they are putting us out of work.”
One man in the crowd barked at members of the Sheriff’s office posted outside the restaurant.
“I hope your pensions work,” he said. “You sold out your own people. You are enforcing the laws of the same guy who spits on you.”
Controversial artist Scott LoBaido, who has been a visible presence at Mac’s Public House as the controversy heated up in recent days, spoke to the crowd shortly after 6 p.m.
“Patriotism is not just hanging your flags out on the Fourth of July,” he said. “You know what’s patriotism? This is f***ing patriotism.”
He led the crowd in a chants, including “Fight!” and “Don’t give up the ship!”
THE CENTER OF A CONTROVERSY
Mac’s Public House first found itself at the center of controversy when it said on Nov. 20 that it planned to continue indoor dining despite being in a state-designated coronavirus micro-cluster orange zone, where it is illegal.
Tension between the restaurant and state officials erupted Tuesday night when the Sheriff’s office executed a law-enforcement action and arrested owner Danny Presti and issued a partial vacate order for the business.
Keith McAlarney, who owns the tavern with Presti, was not taken into custody.
“That was a first,” Presti said of his arrest. “I probably have 15 fines in my pocket right now. I don’t even know what they’re for.”
Presti spoke to the crowd at about 6:45 p.m.
“We are a community,” he said. “We take back Staten Island tonight. We take all the states back. This is how we take our country back.”
LANZA RESTRAINED WEDNESDAY, SPEAKS TO CROWD
The drama at Mac’s Public House had continued earlier on Wednesday when state Sen. Andrew Lanza was restrained and nearly arrested for trying to enter the restaurant despite the partial vacate order.
Lanza was told only lawyers representing the business were allowed to enter. He hastily arranged a deal to offer his services free of charge, but was told that wasn’t sufficient.
“I took a step toward the door, so they started to grab me and I said ‘OK, I won’t go in,’” he said.
As he addressed the crowd on Wednesday evening, Lanza said “the city is in a death spiral.”
“We want to be safe. But we deserve the truth too,” he said.
He said that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo split the borough in half when he designated zones as part of his micro-cluster strategy, and noted that the half with more severe restrictions — the orange zone — is on the South Shore, where representation is Republican.
Councilman Joseph Borelli and Assemblyman Michael Reilly also addressed the crowd, and Congresswoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis was patched in by phone.