Seaside Heights OKs pro-Trump march after initial denial over security costs
SEASIDE HEIGHTS — A march in support of President Donald Trump will take place Saturday after a permit was initially denied.
The Make America Great Again March (MAGA March) was initially denied a permit to hold a march Saturday on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. The group was asked by Mayor Anthony Vaz, a Republican, to hold the event someplace else, according to a statement from Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz.
Organizer Nesya Eng, who lives in Mantua, said that the Seaside Heights march is one 36 marches in 41 states in support of not only Trump but first responders and military personnel. She said it was planned as a response to the March for Women held in Washington, D.C., the day after Trump was inaugurated.
Christopher Vaz told New Jersey 101.5 that unlike the recent Polar Bear Plunge and St. Patrick's Day Parade, the event was unplanned and the borough could not make sure police and public works resources were available and budgeted for this during off season.
"The mayor had a concern about about being able to provide site security and clean up," Christopher Vaz said.
Eng said the MAGA event is protected by the principles of free speech and freedom of assembly and security and while security is a concern to the group it should not be the factor that determines if the event is held or not.. Christopher Vaz said the borough's attorney determined that litigation could be brought by the group had they been prevented from holding their march and the event was approved.
It has also been hard for the borough to plan for how many people would attend. Christopher Vaz said their application only indicated that "over 25" people would attend. However, a copy of the application provided by Eng to New Jersey 101.5 shows she wrote "TBD -150+" in the line asking how many people are anticipated to attend.
"We've had very little contact with them recently since they filed the special event application. Their Facebook page, which is what we have to go by, indicated that several hundred people would be attending," Christopher Vaz said.
As of Tuesday morning the group's Facebook page showed 411 people were going and 646 were interested. Eng said that she's not sure how many people will show up.
The borough will require the marchers to stay on the east side of the boardwalk and keep the west side open. They will not be allowed to block the entrances to any businesses, facilities or fire hydrants.
There is also a concern that those who oppose Trump will attend as well, based on what has happened at other rallies, according to Christopher Vaz. "It's an unknown."
Christopher Vaz said that security protocols put into place after last fall's trash can explosion in neighboring Seaside Park will be in place.
"We'll have the dogs sniff around, we'll be checking garbage cans, which is a standard special event thing at this point," Christopher Vaz.
Eng said that she couldn't think of a better place to hold the event than the site of that bombing last September as it is symbolic of standing up for freedom in the face of terrorism.
Ocean County voters supported Trump in November's election with 65 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 31 percent, the widest margin of any county in New Jersey.
The MAGA March is scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 p.m.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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