Mayor de Blasio is a killjoy. Before the virus came, you’d never see him out on the town — not at a Broadway show, not at a ball game, not at Shakespeare in the Park. He’s a real nowhere man. You just know he’d much rather figure out a way to regulate and tax the good time you’re having than have one himself. That stands in sharp contrast to his predecessors, who, whatever their politics, loved the city and made the most of it.
And that personality trait of de Blasio’s may be part of why the mayor, who only seems to love talking about changing the city into what he thinks it should be, is now banning all large, fun outdoor events for the rest of the summer.
At the same time, he made sure to specify that protests are not banned. So people can stand shoulder to shoulder, maybe with masks on and maybe not, and shout slogans all day, but they can’t stand together and, say, sing along to the music some band is performing on an outdoor stage.
One of course cannot ban protests even during the coronavirus crisis. De Blasio and Gov. Cuomo actually had tried that back in the spring, with the NYPD arresting people just for protesting. The result was a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union (as well as, days earlier, a lesson on constitutional rights delivered to them in this space). Then came the massive protests against police brutality and racial injustice, and that was the end of that. De Blasio and Cuomo magically rediscovered the First Amendment.
Allowing demonstrations but not other large events may pass constitutional muster (though even that’s debatable, as it entails unequal treatment of people based on why they want to gather together). But that doesn’t make it right.
People need to get out and enjoy themselves. That’s why it was so important to open the beaches, something else de Blasio was loath to do (again, the beach is fun). And it’s why the city should allow things like concerts and plays in outdoor spaces. Attendees could be masked. Performers would not have to be close together, given amplification.
Opening the beaches did not cause a spike in COVID. Neither did all the protests. It seems as if the virus does not easily spread outdoors. Indoor transmission is the problem.
Thwarting the virus is vital, but the psychological toll of the restrictions has been heavy. People have to be allowed some fun too. We can’t hold outdoor events in the winter, and we don’t know what the future holds. De Blasio should lift his ban on fun, and maybe even try to have some himself.