2 towns in NJ sue promoters to stop illegal pop-up parties
Officials in Long Branch are asking a judge to help stop unauthorized pop-up parties like the one that drew 5,000 people to Pier Village on May 21.
Point Pleasant Beach also plans to go to court against many of the same individuals by Monday, according to The Associated Press.
A petition filed by Long Branch in Monmouth County Superior Court asks a judge to issue a restraining order against six named individuals who have been promoting another pop-up party in Long Branch on June 19.
Public Safety Director Domingos Saldida said in a news release the city has had enough.
"These viral parties are likely to get bigger and more dangerous until we do something about it," Saldida said, "Hopefully, making the organizers pay the price for their behavior will deter them from putting together an unpermitted, illegal event in Long Branch in the future."
The city estimates that it cost taxpayers approximately $25,000 for the police response and eventual clean-up after the last party.
Mayor John Pallone says all are welcome to Long Branch, if they follow the rules.
"If you want to have a gathering, apply for a special event permit. Don’t drink alcohol in public or smoke on our beaches. Don’t engage in disorderly conduct. The organizers of the May 21st event broke all those rules and put our City in harms way. That is why it is so important that we hold them accountable," Pallone said in a statement.
While the City of Long Branch has been fortunate in that no one has been seriously injured or killed as a result of these unsanctioned events, it is only a matter of time before one of the uncontrollable nature of these non-permitted gatherings leads to significant tragedy. It is clear that without the intervention of the Courts, Defendants and other individuals with the same goals will not cease to promote and share this or other flyers. Without the requested Court Order, events like this will continue in Long Branch and have already begun to spread to other municipalities such as Point Pleasant and Asbury Park - Long Branch Superior Court Petition
Superior Court Judge Lisa Thornton did not issue an immediate ruling. NJ.com reports she has given Long Branch until the close of business Friday to provide proof the named individuals have been given a copy of the complaint. She also asked the town to file a supplemental brief "on the issues of prior restraints and the First Amendment."
It's not clear how, or when, Thornton will rule.
In the meantime, Pallone says his city is taking "all available measures to restrain them (organizers) from advertising (another pop-up party), as well as protect City residents and property."
'Our economy runs on tourism'
Point Pleasant Beach has also experienced several such parties, including a particularly large one in 2020 in which Mayor Paul Kanitra said his town “was treated like an absolute toilet.”
He said the borough is seeking to have a court block future events without first obtaining a permit. And he called on state lawmakers to redefine the legal definition of creating a riot so organizers of unsanctioned gatherings that result in violence can be charged criminally.
“They were very destructive," Kanitra said. “Flags were ripped off people's homes, mailboxes were destroyed, and there was a sea of litter. It wasn't a family-friendly atmosphere. You don't want to take your kids on the boardwalk rides if you have to navigate a sea of marijuana smoke and fights to get there.”
Three young people returning home from that party died in a fiery crash in Newark, New Jersey.
Most of the attendees of the previous parties were Black and Latino, and some attendees complained on social media that race played a factor in authorities' attempts to end the parties — something the towns deny.
“Our economy runs on tourism,” Kanitra said. “We welcome tourists of all backgrounds in Point Pleasant Beach. But it's not unreasonable to require that anybody who visits respects our laws.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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