Monmouth County Prosecutor: 5,000 in Attendance, 12 Arrests at Asbury Park Protest on June 1
TRENTON, NJ — In the wake of civil unrest across the nation, Gov. Phil Murphy addressed New Jersey's efforts by law enforcement at collaboration and trust-building with the public, while also unveiling a new data point to bolster his decision to move the state farther along its path toward restarting its stalled economy amid the coronavirus crisis.
Murphy used his daily press briefing on June 2 to update and emphasize initiatives aimed at "transforming policing and police culture" in New Jersey "through collaboration with our diverse communities."
His comments come at time when cities across the country are being challenged to accommodate peaceful protests following the death of George Floyd while maintaining order as those peaceful protests have turned violent once the sun goes down.
New Jersey has mostly escaped the scenes of chaos and violence that have been playing out daily across the country, although there were clashes with police and arrests made in Asbury Park, Atlantic City and Trenton over the last few days.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office estimated that 5,000 people attended the June 1 protest in Asbury Park, which imposed an 8 p.m. curfew in advance of the event. On its Facebook page, the prosecutor's office issued the following statement on the protest: "Thankfully, the event was largely peaceful and orderly, with only 12 arrests during the entire event. One was charged with aggravated assault and obstruction for allegedly biting a police officer; the other 11 were charged with disorderly person offenses for failing to disperse during curfew. Two other officers were struck in the head by rocks and/or glass, one sustaining a fractured skull. Good work by the Asbury Park Police Department for creating an environment for peaceful protest while ensuring that city citizens and property were protected."
One of those arrests involved Asbury Park Press reporter Gustavo Martinez Contreras, who failed to obey an order to disperse, according to the police complaint. However, the prosecutor's office said it requested the complaint be dismissed after it was learned that Contreras was a member of the media, but failed to identify himself as such at the time of his arrest.
The Belmar Police Department was among those local patrols that provided assistance at the protest.
At his press briefing, Murphy also noted the many peaceful protests that have been held in cities like Newark and Camden and acknowledged the public's right to voice its opinions.
Noting a collective outpouring of grief, the addressed "the pain and fatigue of decades, generations and centuries of inequalities and systemic racism."
"It is pain that has eroded some ties that bind our communities and the men and women whose sworn duty it is to protect them," Murphy said. "While the heart of the issue is not limited to problems in policing, I have asked the attorney general to outline the expanded efforts taken across the state to build upon their existing work to build trust and strengthen the bonds between law enforcement and the communities in which they serve."
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who joined the governor on the dais, said Floyd's death is a reminder that the nation still has a long way to go to healing racial divides and addressing the systemic and implicit biases that affect all Americans.
"To the thousands of New Jerseyans who assembled peacefully this week, let me be clear: we hear you, we see you, we respect you," Grewal said.
Grewal said he has been at the helm of efforts to improve policing throughout the state even before this most recent crisis. In December, the state launched the "Excellence in Policing" initiative, which he said was a set of reforms designed to promote a culture of professionalism, accountability and transparency for all police departments throughout the state.
He provided several updates and additional facets of the new initiative, including launching a pilot crisis intervention training program in Paterson, Trenton, Atlantic City and Millville. He said it is a collaborative training between law enforcement, mental health professionals and other stakeholders to provide best practices on how to respond to psychiatric crises in a way the minimizes the potential for injury.
He also said he was fully supportive of and will push for a statewide police licensing program to "ensure that all officers meet baseline standards of professionalism and those who cannot meet those standards cannot work in New Jersey."
Other new steps Grewal said are being taken include expanding the state's "Use of Force" database to allow for all local police departments to report and to update the state's "Use of Force" policy that was last updated in 2000.
Yesterday, Murphy announced that New Jersey was prepared to enter a new stage in his "Restart and Recovery" plan. The second phase of his multistage plan will begin on June 15 when restaurants can offer outdoor dining, and nonessential retail stores can allow customers inside at a reduced capacity. Noncontact youth sports can begin on June 22, as well as the reopening of hair salons and barbershops.
In addition to the traditional statistics given to show how the virus is presently waning in the state, the governor showed a new statistic that charts the ability of the virus to reproduce. At its height in mid-March, every infected person was infecting an average of five people. Social distancing measures and wearing of face coverings have today dropped that average to less than one, he said.
The governor reported 51 new COVID-19 related fatalities for a total of 11,770 statewide and 708 new COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 161,545. Other key metrics like new hospitalizations, cases in the ICU/CCU and number of patients needing ventilators all continue to trend downward.
Below is the video of Gov. Murphy's June 2 press briefing:
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