SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The streets of South Plainfield were quiet this morning, which is unusual for Labor Day in South Plainfield, a day of celebration the close knit community looks forward to all year. Early this morning, the 62nd Annual South Plainfield Labor Day Parade was cancelled after authorities found a number of suspicious destructive devices near the home of fifty-five year old South Plainfield resident Thomas G. Kaiser, who was arrested and charged with one count of possession of a destructive device for an unlawful purpose in the second degree and one count of possession of a destructive device in the third degree. More charges are expected to be filed.
“We are all disappointed that our Labor Day festivities have been canceled, but the important thing is that we are safe and we have been assured by authorities that there is no longer any threat to the public at this point,” said Mayor Matthew Anesh. “I would like to thank the South Plainfield Police Department, Department of Public Works, Middlesex County Prosecutors Office, Sea Bright Police Department, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the FBI, the New Jersey State Police Bomb Squad and various K-9 units for their quick response and thorough investigation. I would like to also thank the residents of South Plainfield for their patience and understanding as officials worked to ensure our safety.”
The investigation began in Monmouth County yesterday when a suspicious package with a homemade destructive device was left at Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright, New Jersey, leading law enforcement agencies to the South Plainfield residence of Kaiser. Police also learned that there were other destructive devices near his home, which is located near the staging area of the parade behind the Police Athletic League (PAL) parking lot on West Crescent Parkway in South Plainfield. Kaiser was transported to the Sea Bright Police Department, where he was criminally charged.
Anesh stood before reporters at a press conference this afternoon in Borough Hall accompanied by members of council, including: Robert Bengivenga, Jon Dean, Christine Faustini, Gary Vesce, Derryck White and Joe Wolak.
“As you all know, earlier this morning, the South Plainfield Labor Day celebration was abruptly canceled due to a security issue that occurred late Sunday evening,” said Anesh. “I’d like to thank the South Plainfield Police Department and the law enforcement community at large for their swift actions in neutralizing any threat to the public. A little bit before midnight, South Plainfield Police Department, working with other law enforcement agencies apprehended a South Plainfield resident, who has been charged with possession of a destructive device. I’d like to thank the law enforcement agencies from South Plainfield to the Sea Bright Police Department, to all of the enforcement personnel that provided over a half a dozen police dogs and secured the area overnight into this morning.”
Anesh went on to say that the number of devices found has not been released, but indicated several devices were recovered near Kaiser’s home. Anesh explained that the devices would have required actual lighting and were not remote controlled, calling them “destructive homemade devices.” So far, there has been no explicit indication that the devices were planted around the parade route. Kaiser’s home is located in the vicinity of the parade route and since the devices were scattered throughout the area, Labor Day festivities were canceled out of an abundance of caution.
“We were notified by South Plainfield Police Chief James Parker of the activities overnight, the overnight arrest and the ongoing searches for those devices,” said Anesh. “We have been assured that there is no longer a threat to the public at this point. What we would like to remind residents is that if they do see any kind of device to take their normal precaution and report those devices to the South Plainfield Police Department.”
Anesh explained that the area around the community pool and the Police Athletic League near Maple Avenue and down Cady Lane was thoroughly searched. If any devices are found, residents are asked to immediately reach out to the South Plainfield Police Department at (908) 755-0700 or 911.
“These are not the Labor Day activities we would have liked to have seen today,” said Anesh. This would have been the 62nd Labor Day Parade. A lot of our youth and community organizations, including the veterans that were going to be honored today, were looking forward to today for many months.”
Anesh concluded the press conference, saying the investigation is ongoing and there are still many unknowns. South Plainfield Police will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies, including the Office of the Middlesex County Prosecutor, Homeland Security and Preparedness, the FBI, and Sea Bright Police Department during the investigation.
“We like to refer ourselves as a close knit community,” said Anesh. “There are a lot of youth and civic organizations that are involved in the parade. Over the years, we’ve tried to increase the amount of floats and the community has done a really good job in doing this. So you have a lot of youth organizations that have put a lot of time and effort leading up to this parade and as you see their faces over the weekend. It’s the talk of the town. I believe we’re only one of two Labor Day parades in the state of New Jersey. It’s a lot of built up and anticipation.”
For over six decades, excited parade goers, have stood along the crowded parade route to cheer on their children, neighbors and friends as they made their way down Maple Avenue, across Hamilton Boulevard, and ending in front of the Middle School for a town picnic. The PAL Building parking lot, normally filled with floats, bands, antique cars and community organizations, was filled instead with police cars and emergency vehicles this morning. Lawn chairs stood vacant along Maple Avenue next to police barricades as teams of officers, Department of Public Works and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) swept neighborhoods for suspicious devices.
Tonight the usual thunder of South Plainfield’s spectacular fireworks display will be silent, but community members will work to make sure it is only a temporary setback.
“Labor Day is such an important day for the South Plainfield community,” said Amy Bengivenga-Johnson, Public Celebrations Committee Chair. “We are working to plan a community event to honor our veterans and continue our Labor Day tradition of celebrating our community.”
“It’s always a little bitter sweet as the end of summer and school starting, but the town looks forward to Labor Day and has done so for many years,” said Anesh. “This year was also special because we were honoring veterans so we did expect well over a hundred veterans to attend today’s festivities. There will be some further planning for an event to potentially replace the parade.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Daniel Chernavsky of the Sea Bright Police Department at (732) 842-0010, Detective Shawn Murphy of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 803-5406, or the South Plainfield Police Department at (908) 755-0700.