Demonstrators in Michigan rallied over the weekend to support a local restaurant owner who was jailed for defying lockdown orders and keeping her business open.
Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland, was arrested Friday after failing to comply with a judge’s orders to shut her doors until further notice.
On Saturday, hundreds of unmasked American-flag waving protesters arrived from across the state to rally outside the business in a show of support for Pavlos-Hackney, and as a reminder to local and state officials that lockdowns are immensely unpopular.
“I think it’s one of the most important things we can do as freedom-loving Americans,” one demonstrator from Grand Rapids told WoodTV.com. “We can show our voice in support of a woman who absolutely deserves better than what she’s getting.”
“To me, it’s about corrupt courts, corrupt judges and government overreach,” another protester stated, adding, “They’re using it as an excuse to go after a vulnerable person. She was a woman… They went after her because it was easy.”
On March 4, Ingraham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina issued a bench warrant for Pavlos-Hackney, who rather than turn herself in continued to operate her business, despite her food license already being suspended.
Following her arrest Friday, Judge Aquilina told her she’d stay in jail until she proved she’d closed her restaurant, which protesters on Saturday boarded up and put caution tape around in efforts to get her released.
“Should the restaurant open up again, there will be another bench warrant issued immediately, another pickup order, 93 days (in jail) and $7,500 (in fines),” Aquilina told Pavlos-Hackney Friday. “I don’t know how long you want to do this, ma’am, but we can keep doing it all year long. You must abide by the law.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Pavlos-Hackney said he hoped to get her released by Monday.
Pavlos-Hackney has maintained health officials shouldn’t have a say in how she operates her business.
“We don’t want this country to be a communist regime that’s going to dictate what we can do and what we cannot do,” Pavlos-Hackney argues, adding it’s her constitutional right to operate her business free from government interference.
Judge Aquilina disagrees, claiming the restaurant being open while flouting capacity and mask rules could endanger the public.
“This is the wrong way to get publicity, it’s the wrong way to be a good citizen, it’s the wrong way to assist the public in a pandemic. We do not violate the law,” Aquilina told her.
For the meantime, the future for Michigan restaurant owners seems uncertain – while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month declared businesses could increase capacity from 25 to 50 percent, Michigan’s chief medical officer has said the state could be on the verge of another wave.
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