N.J. gym owner used megaphone with white supremacist sticker, says it was handed to me. – NJ.com

Posted By on May 23, 2020

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The co-owner of a South Jersey gym at the center of an ongoing controversy about reopening used a megaphone labeled with a sticker from a noted white supremacist organization.

His lawyer, however, told NJ Advance Media that Atilils Gym owner Ian A. Smith was just handed the megaphone and that he has no association with the organization, the New Jersey European Heritage Association.

It was not his megaphone, Smiths lawyer James Mermigis told NJ Advance Media. Not that it makes it right that someone in the crowd had it."

We had nothing to do with them ... they showed up, uninvited, he said.

The rally in question took place on Monday, as hundreds of supporters gathered to cheer Smiths reopening of the gym. Images identifying the sticker on the megaphone began circulating on social media on Wednesday.

On its website, the Anti-Defamation League identifies the New Jersey European Heritage Association as a a small white supremacist group created in 2018.

Thursday morning, Smith, 33, posted a video on his Instagram page discussing what he called an entirely false rumor.

That megaphone was handed to me ... In no way do I ever or would I ever support any group linked to hate or racism of any kind, he said. That is not my message nor has it ever been. Please take a look at my family, we are a multi-racial family.

Smith hardened his stance in a statement sent to NJ Advance Media: I condemn any and all hate groups, including but not limited to New Jersey European Heritage Association. I did not ask any of their members to come and they are not welcome here.

When asked if his staff will tell the group to leave were they to return to the gym, Smith responded: Absolutely. I was unaware they were even here in the first place. I am uneducated about these groups, as I am not affiliated.

Smith made national news with an appearance on Fox News last weekend when he announced his gym would be reopen regardless of the consequences. Gov. Phil Murphy said that would be clear violation of his executive order, when asked last week during a daily briefing on the outbreak.

He opened the gym on Monday and was issued a summons. The gym was issued at least two additional citations since them, each of which includes a fine of up to $1,000 and possible jail time.

On Wednesday evening, the gym was shut down by the state, reportedly because of health code violations. Co-owner Frank Trumbetti vowed to fight the closure.

When asked by NJ Advance Media about the white supremacy organization sticker, Trumbetti said that they are not associated with any hate groups or white supremacy organizations. Ian already put something up on social media and Ill leave it at that, he said.

Smith faced further backlash Wednesday after word circulated that he had been charged in a previous drunk driving crash that killed another New Jersey man in 2007, while Smith was a student at Richard Stockton University in Galloway.

Rodrigo Torrejon contributed to this report.

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Bobby Olivier may be reached at bolivier@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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N.J. gym owner used megaphone with white supremacist sticker, says it was handed to me. - NJ.com

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