A Racine business is being punished because the owner participated in a rally in Madison demanding the government end the Coronavirus shutdown.
The Racine Journal Times is reporting Dimple’s Fine Imports in downtown Racine was denied city assistance from the city’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Fund because the owners, Dimple and Denis Navratil, were seen on television attending a rally in Madison on April 24 opposing Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order.
“Participating in mass gatherings outside of our community, such as the rally that was held at the State Capitol — such large gatherings have been linked to cases of COVID-19 around the state — and then returning to our City, only served to put our residents at unnecessary risk and, thus, factored into the funding consideration,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason told the Racine Journal Times in a statement.
Mason is a former Democratic state representative. During the Act 10 protests, the window to Mason’s first floor office was opened by unknown persons to allow protesters to storm the Capitol.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has been in contact with the Navratils.
“We are greatly concerned that Racine officials are using government programs to discriminate and punish First Amendment protected speech,” said WILL in a statement. “We will continue to investigate this matter.”
According to the Journal Times, the decision of which businesses were given aid from the city was made using subjective criteria. The newspaper reported:
The Journal Times learned, through an open records request, that a scoring system was not used to determine grant recipients, and that no minutes were taken during the decision-making process because it was done during internal staff meetings.
The City of Racine this spring gave out $900,000 in grants to small businesses affected by coronavirus. In round one, 18 local businesses received grants up to $15,000 each and in round two 146 businesses received grants ranging from $2,500 to $6,500.
Because of the “discretionary” nature of the grant, Mason said the risky nature of the Madison protest played a role in determining grant recipients.
“When it comes to disbursing discretionary funds aimed at helping businesses who were sacrificing to protect public health, the City is not going to reward business owners who took reckless behaviors that risked the health of our community,” Mason said in his statement.
Mason also claimed in the statement to the Journal Times that participating in a Black Lives Matter protest could also result in a business being denied access to city emergency assistance.
“If you don’t pay your taxes, or violate city ordinances, or disregard public health orders in a pandemic — whether that is under a conservative or liberal cause — you will not compete as well against other applicants who do,” Mason said in a statement. “It’s about stopping a pandemic and protecting public health, not an ideological litmus test.”