On July 4 at 82 Front St., the residence of unrecognized off-campus fraternity Kappa Sigma, there was a large gathering recorded on video and uploaded to YouTube by John Solak, a Binghamton resident. Since the party, at least one attendee has tested positive for COVID-19.
Solak claims the party gathered more than 50 people, an obstruction of guidelines set by New York state.
“We’re right here on Front Street, Fourth of July, there’s a party going on,” Solak said in the video. “Probably saw about 50 to 100 people.”
Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed during Phase 4, the phase Broome County is currently in, but every individual must be six feet apart and wear masks when distancing isn’t possible. In the video, none of the individuals were wearing masks or were six feet apart.
A statement released on July 9 by the Broome County Health Department confirmed a COVID-19 case from an individual at the gathering.
“If you were at that location that day, we ask that you self-quarantine until July 18,” the statement read. “Contact your health provider if you develop symptoms.”
The video showed numerous individuals going into the fraternity house. According to Solak, more partygoers were in the backyard of the residence, covered behind two large curtains that obstructed viewing.
Solak was approached by an individual at the gathering who asked why Solak was recording their residence, eventually asking him to leave while Solak maintained the sidewalk where he was recording was public property. Other individuals quickly approached Solak’s camera, covering any view of the backyard while asking where Solak lives and why he was recording.
After many attempts by the individuals, Solak eventually responded to their questions on why he was filming.
“To show the folks in Binghamton what’s going on, that’s one thing,” Solak said. “I’m interested in things of [Binghamton University], realized [BU President] Harvey Stenger, last week, came up with this thing called ‘controlled socialization’ and he’s gonna be enforcing a new wave of — ”
Another individual interrupted and said, “I don’t go to [BU], I live here.”
Another then tagged on saying that he had graduated and that Stenger had no jurisdiction over his home.
“I don’t either,” the individual stated. “I graduated and what I don’t understand is [that Stenger] has no jurisdiction over my home — he has jurisdiction over what I do at the school or I do through the school, but at my own home, [Stenger] has no jurisdiction over any of my actions whatsoever.”
Although BU has not released any statements regarding summer student activities, administrators did express frustration with large gatherings hosted by students during the spring 2020 semester. In the restarting BU plan, it is outlined that students will need to accept a set of standards and expectations for decreasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission for fall 2020.
“Students will acknowledge receipt and understanding of these standards and expectations and accept responsibility for compliance through the confirmation of enrollment process or similar pathway,” the plan read. “We are also developing a set of progressive sanctions that can be imposed if students fail to comply.”
In March, when a statewide shutdown was present, the Binghamton Police Department (BPD) urged BU students to not throw parties or any other large gatherings.
“During this ongoing and developing public health situation we discourage all off campus fraternities, sororities or college groups otherwise and the student population as a whole from organizing, engaging in and hosting any such off campus house parties or gatherings,” BPD wrote.
An individual in the recording claimed that police officers did show up during the gathering before Solak approached them and that everything turned out to be fine.
Eventually, the individuals in the video started referring to their gathering as a protest.
“Legally, you’re allowed to have an over-200-person protest,” an individual said.
In wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, some have claimed that it is an infringement of rights to allow protests, but not large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re protesting our rights,” another individual said.
Claiming that there were 30 people, the individuals continued to rally behind their claim of the large gathering as a protest. Another individual claimed that there were 25 people in the backyard and they were all wearing masks or had masks in their back pocket.
“They’re all over 21,” an individual said. “There’s no problem. I don’t go to the University.”
Solak asked why the individuals were acting defensive.
“Because you’re recording me,” an individual said. “What if I was naked?”
The individuals then started asking Solak if he was there to sexualize people and film child pornography.
“Yeah, let’s get naked,” an individual said.
Some began taking off their shirts or showing their stomachs, while two shouted “I’m 16” and “I’m 14.”
“You just recorded an underage guy,” an individual said.”You just recorded child pornography.”’
Near the end of the video, an individual started profusely coughing on Solak.
“I have [coronavirus] by the way,” the individual said.
There have been several arrests in New York with charges of assault for coughing on people and claiming they have the coronavirus.
“This is a protest,” “We’re all six feet apart” and “He recorded me naked” were all yelled shortly before Solak turned off his camera.
Broome County Executive Jason Garnar expressed his disapproval of the gathering on Twitter.
“This is EXACTLY what will drive our [COVID-19] numbers back up and put people’s lives at risk in addition to putting our local businesses in jeopardy of being shut down again,” Garnar wrote. “I will use whatever means I have at my disposal to stop this. UNACCEPTABLE.”