EARLIER this week, police broke up two Orthodox Jewish weddings in Lakewood, New Jersey, prompting Governor Phil Murphy, above, to say that NJ intends to ‘aggressively enforce’ restrictions on large gatherings because of Coronavirus.
Not mincing words, Murphy said it was “time to cut the crap”.
Referring to the widely reported incident involving the weddings in Lakewood, which has a very large Orthodox Jewish population, the Governor said:
We simply cannot have this. We have got to ensure compliance, no matter what the circumstances are.
Restrictions on gatherings larger than 50 people, mandated under a Governor’s executive order, “has to be enforced,” Murphy said. “It will be enforced aggressively.”
Officers in Lakewood had responded to the separate wedding celebrations and told venue staff that gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited, said Lakewood Captain Gregory Staffordsmith. The workers and guests then dispersed.
But the problems did not stop there.
Yesterday (Friday) Staffordsmith said:
So far we have responded to approximately 17 calls for service directly relating to violations of his [Murphy’s] mitigation strategies. We want the public to know that we have heard and share their concerns regarding gatherings of more than fifty people and have taken action against those who have failed to comply.
He said officers were called to a home on Oliver Court on Thursday evening after a large crowd sparked a flurry of calls from concerned residents. Responders were able to disperse the crowd as quickly as possible to limit exposure to all involved.
Police later charged the homeowner with maintaining a public nuisance and was given an April court date, he said. The Lakewood Township Inspections Department also determined the location to be unsafe.
On Friday morning, police learned of another wedding venue at a house on Spruce Street that resulted in the 49-year-old homeowner also being charged with maintaining a public nuisance after officers found a gathering of more than 50 people, authorities said.
The department also received a “flood” of notifications about the Mesivta of Lakewood, a Jewish high school, which failed to vacate its students.
At this time our priority is to get these students back to their families as quickly and safely as possible. We are currently working closely with local liaisons and school officials to expedite this and the number of students remaining is reported to be less than 50 at this time and all are expected to be removed by (Friday) evening.
An officer will remain on the scene until the situation is concluded, with the help of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
The Lakewood Police is asking that its citizens be responsible and obey the directives set forth by the State of New Jersey for the safety and health of all. Those that choose not to will be subject to criminal prosecution.
The number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in Lakewood jumped Thursday to 26 from just four a day earlier, but no new cases were announced pm Friday.