The large crowd of protesters gathered outside of Mac's Public House in Staten Island, New York, on Wednesday night to show support for the bar that was shut on Tuesday after it ignored health measures and operated without a license.
The bar’s owner, Daniel Presti, was arrested on Tuesday and was charged with obstructing governmental administration and multiple other violations of state and local laws, the authorities said.
Mr Presti and his co-owner Keith McAlarney had declared the bar an “autonomous zone” and had continued to serve customers inside, despite local coronavirus measures ordering businesses to only serve food and drink outside or via takeout.
Earlier in the month, the bar wrote on its Facebook page: “We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forward by the mayor of NYC and the governor of NY State.”
At the protest on Wednesday night, a handful of people chanted “Proud Boys in the house,” as another speaker said: “I am a proud Western Chauvinist”, according to the covid-19-rules/">New York Post.
Proud Boys is a far-right, male-only organisation that has been described as an extremist group by the legal advocacy organisation, the Southern Poverty Law Centre. Facebook and Instagram have also banned content from members of the group from appearing on their sites.
Dozens of sheriffs blocked the entrance to the bar on Wednesday evening, as some of the hundreds of protesters verbally targeted the officers.
Using a speakerphone, one protester shouted: “Where is your backbone? Where is your morality?,” according to the Post.
Health experts have repeatedly warned that bars have been a main factor in spreading coronavirus across the US, and most states have issued orders to limit gatherings inside establishments or banned customers from entering.
Earlier on Wednesday, Republican senator Andrew Lanza was almost arrested when he attempted to make his way through the officers and into the bar, according to Newsweek.
Mr Lanza was told that only the lawyers of the bar owners were allowed into the establishment, but the senator replied that he was there to be their “free-of-charge attorney,” according to the Staten Island Advance.
Officers restrained Mr Lanza and put his hands behind his back as he tried to make his way into the bar, but did not arrest him.
“Somebody's got to stand up for the little guy and that's what I am trying to do here,” Mr Lanza said outside the bar on Wednesday. “People are frustrated, they are angry and they are a little defiant. And it's understandable,” he added.
The protest came amid a rise in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalisations in the US. On Wednesday, the US recorded its highest daily coronavirus death total, as it also reached a record number of people hospitalised from Covid-19.
There were more than 2,670 deaths from Covid-19 recorded across the US on Wednesday, according to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, and there are currently at least 100,200 people hospitalised in the US because of coronavirus. Both of these figures are the highest they have ever been.
Since the start of the pandemic, New York has recorded more than 669,000 coronavirus cases and at least 34,286 deaths.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 13.9 million people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached 273,836.