Out-of-Town Trump Backers Hold Anti-Shutdown Protest in Williamsburg

Barber shop reopen protest
Protester Hillary Barq of Liberate America speaks with a police officer outside The Beard Barberia Cut and Shave in Williamsburg on May 19.
Paul Frangipane

They want no more Nama-stay-at-home!

A handful of mostly out-of-state protesters held a small rally outside a Lorimer Street barbershop in Williamsburg on Tuesday, calling on the city and state to end the coronavirus shutdown — so that they can go to yoga and get their nails done!

“My fingernails are breaking, I’ve got hangnails, I’ve been getting my nails done for 14 years … I’m very much into yoga, I can’t go to my Bikram yoga studios, I can’t go get my eyelashes done, I can’t go and socialize with the people that are my friends,” said Mississippian Hillary Angel Barq. “It’s led me to depression, it’s made me not feel sexual — I mean it’s awful.”

The gathering of roughly half a dozen people — outnumbered even by the amount of media covering the event — was organized by the pro-Trump group Liberate America together with the owners of Beard Barberia Cut and Shave at the corner of Grand Street.

The organization describes itself on its website as a “pro-Trump, pro-business, pro-individual rights, and anti-government overreach group.”

New York City is one of the global epicenters of the pandemic with more than 20,000 deaths due to the virus, and almost 200,000 people infected, according to the city’s health department data on May 18 — but, when asked whether it was worth risking hundreds of further deaths by allowing businesses to reopen, the protest organizer said it was and questioned the staggering death tolls.

“Absolutely, absolutely. But there’s a difference, it’s what they didn’t tell you is what is the mortality rate that’s already been in place,” said Liberate America’s founder Frank Scurlock, who is from New Orleans.

Scurlock, a former candidate for mayor in New Orleans and heir to an inflatable bounce house fortune, was arrested in 2017 for allegedly masturbating in the backseat of an Uber in California, for which he pled no contest in 2018, according to a report in the Times-Picayune.

His group reportedly paid the Williamsburg business $500 to open for a day and let Scurlock cut Barq’s hair as a publicity stunt, but police closed down the antics shortly afterwards without citing either Scurlock nor the owner of the shop, according to the New York Post.

Frank Mials Scurlock of Liberate America speaks with press outside The Beard Barberia Cut and Shave in Williamsburg on May 19, 2020 to rally for the shop’s reopening and the reopening of the country’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.Paul Frangipane

One local passer-by slammed protesters like Barq for putting their privilege above the lives of others and told them to take their protests elsewhere.

“I don’t know her, but it looks like her position about what liberation is comes from a lot of privilege and from someone who really has no business talking about using the word ‘liberation’ in general I think,” said Alissa Vladimir as she watched the gathering. “Is she [Barq] from Williamsburg? Get the f— out of here!”

An employee of the scissor shop who joined the protest at Grand Street pointed to other states like Florida that have rescinded their stay-at-home orders this week, and said that the Empire State should follow suit.

“I think we should be reopened because it’s affecting everybody, because we’ve got kids, we’ve got a family to feed,” said barber Lucas Pizarro. “In Florida, one of my friends is a barber, they’re open, they’re good and I haven’t heard no case in Florida yet.”

The owner of the barbershop said he got a small business loan from the state since closing, but that it wasn’t enough to keep paying his $4,000 rent for the shop.

“We need money, my workers need money,” said Ilya Iskhakov. “[The loan] did alright, but it’s still not enough.”

Owner of The Beard Barberia Cut & Shave, Ilya Iskhakova demands to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic for fear of further economic damages from being closed.Paul Frangipane

Pizarro said they could resume cutting hair by appointment only, and limited the space to just four patrons at once, all of whom would have to wear a mask.

“With the social distancing, we could be able to work,” he said. “We would allow nobody without mask.”

The Sunshine State has enacted similar limits for barbershops, and when a patron gets beard treatment, they can take down their mask, but the barber wears a face shield, according to a CNN report.

But since Florida officials started reopening on May 1, cases have continued to steadily rise, with 34,728 confirmed cases and 1,890 deaths, according to an ABC News report.

Cuomo ordered barbershops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons to close on March 21, just ahead of his statewide shelter-in-place directive Policies Assure Uniform Safety Everyone (PAUSE), which went into effect the following day.

The state’s chief executive has started allowing gradual reopenings upstate for regions that met seven metrics, including enlisting enough contact tracers, a consistent decline in hospital admissions, deaths, and having enough testing and hospital capacity.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he expects the city to hit the seven criteria some time in the first half of June.

Update (May 19, 6:30 pm): This story has been updated to include background information about Frank Scurlock and developing information about the rally.

This story was originally published at BrooklynPaper.com. To sign up for the Gay City News email newsletter, visit gaycitynews.com/newsletter.