Unruly crowds in Long Branch spurs new NJ legislation targeting violent rioters
The massive gathering in Long Branch last weekend appears to have been the last straw for a couple of New Jersey lawmakers and what happened is something many Jersey Shore Mayors, Towns, Police have had concerns about for some time.
Now, legislative action is taking place, courtesy of Monmouth/Ocean County State Senator Robert Singer and Essex/Morris County State Senator Joe Pennacchio, in an effort to curb any more deja vu.
Legislation introduced by Senators Robert Singer and Joe Pennacchio is focused, they said, on strengthening laws to prevent any similar violent outbreaks from taking place in the future and coming down harder on violators.
There were four arrests in Long Branch on Saturday as thousands gathered together at once after many caught wind of the invitation on social media.
Long Branch Police had their hands full trying to keep the peace and prevent anyone from getting hurt.
“What happened last weekend had nothing to do with partying and having a good time,” Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) said in a statement. “It was lawlessness, and there is no appetite for that kind of behavior in New Jersey. Our police and law enforcement deserve credit for ensuring things didn’t get even more dangerous, but the situation was extremely volatile and had the potential to get out of control. You don’t have to look any further than Portland to see what can happen if you allow this kind of behavior to continue. Doing nothing is not an option. The consequences of inaction are too severe.”
Senator Pennacchio and Singer's bill to help out police and Jersey towns and keep the peace when situations escalate, (S-3992), seeks to, they said, "broaden the legal definition of “riot,” and increases penalties for crimes committed during a riot."
Jersey Shore towns like Point Pleasant Beach and Mayor Paul Kanitra and Seaside Heights and Mayor Tony Vaz, have cracked down on any rowdy behavior in recent years by introducing a series of ordinances, with each boroughs council, to prevent any large parties and curb alcohol and drug use including marijuana to provide a place for families to bring kids to these among other shore town summer destinations as a respite from reality and not take a whiff or bear witness to unruly and dangerous behavior or situations that would keep people away.
“Our shore economy is crucial to the state, and it won’t take many episodes like the random intimidation and rowdy behavior displayed in Long Branch to collapse one of New Jersey’s most valuable sectors,” Senator Robert Singer said in a statement. “Tourism, especially summer tourism, depends on families traveling here with their children and friends for vacation. Riots and rampant vandalism will drive visitors away and devastate the summer season. As a state, we cannot afford that, and we must take steps to defend our coastal appeal.”
Senators Singer and Pennachio explain that their bill is similar to one just signed into law down in Florida by Governor Ron DeSantis, which, "takes a robust approach to uphold the rule of law, stand with those serving in law enforcement and enforce Florida’s zero tolerance policy for violent and disorderly assemblies."
Governor DeSantis said, in part,: “In Florida, we are taking an unapologetic stand for the rule of law and public safety. We are holding those who incite violence in our communities accountable, supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and protecting Floridians from the chaos of mob violence."
The New Jersey legislation introduced by Senators Singer and Pennachio seeks to protect order in New Jersey streets.
- It expands the categories of riot to include aggravated riot, inciting a riot and aggravated inciting a riot.
- A municipality has a duty to allow the municipal law enforcement agency to respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or an unlawful assembly based on the availability of adequate equipment to its municipal law enforcement officers and relevant state and federal laws. If the governing body of a municipality or a person authorized by the governing body of the municipality breaches that duty, the municipality is civilly liable for any damages including damages arising from personal injury, wrongful death, or property damages proximately caused by the municipality’s breach of duty.
- If the tentative budget of a municipality contains a funding reduction to the operating budget of the municipal law enforcement agency, the municipal attorney or a member of the governing body who objects to the funding reduction, may file an appeal to the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs within 30 days after the day the tentative budget is posted to the official website of the municipality.
- Under the bill, if, during a riot, an object is thrown at certain emergency personnel including law enforcement officers, or if the emergency personnel is struck, whether or not with an object, the presumption of non-imprisonment for a first offense of a crime of the third degree shall not apply, and a mandatory period of six months imprisonment shall apply.
- Combats cyber-intimidation by publication. Under the bill, it would be unlawful for a person to electronically publish another’s personal identification information with the intent incite violence or a crime against the person; or threaten or harass the person, placing such person in reasonable fear of bodily harm. A person who violates this section commits a crime of the fourth degree.