Police breakup ‘corona concert’ front lawn party in Rumson
RUMSON — Police said they were met with chants of “F the police” when they broke up a concert gathering of adults on a front lawn Saturday night.
An acoustic performance of Pink Floyd songs, by two guitarists with microphones and amplifiers drew about 30 adults in their 40s to 50s to a house on Blackpoint Road near Wood Lane, according to Rumson police in a post on their Facebook page. Some of the attendees brought their own lawn chairs, and the gathering was also streamed via Facebook Live, police said.
Rumson police initially said they would use this gathering as a "learning experience" but in an update Sunday morning said charges were pending.
By Sunday evening, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan said the homeowner, John Maldjian, 54, was charged with reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, and two separate charges related to violating the emergency orders.
Gov. Phil Murphy's emergency order to slow the spread of the prohibits gatherings of any size in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"The Governor’s executive orders are commonsense measures to keep people safe during this historic health crisis,” Grewal said in a statement. “When people like the partiers in Rumson flout the orders and show disrespect and hostility to police officers, they not only put themselves and the others immediately involved in peril, they risk inciting others to engage in such irresponsible and dangerous behavior. Our police officers are working courageously every day to protect us all, and we will continue to charge anyone who violates the emergency orders, which literally are a matter of life and death.”
In Monmouth County alone, state Department of Health reported 2,065 confirmed cases and 54 deaths as of Saturday.
As of April 3, Monmouth County health officials reported 19 positive cases of COVID-19 in Rumson, based on test results.
Police said when police arrived to break up the party they were met with comments like "welcome to Nazi Germany" and said the duo continued to play.
"If we have to respond to another 'corona party' we will be using a zero tolerance approach and everyone involved will be charged with disorderly conduct. We are all in this together and together we need to make smarter choices," police said late Saturday.
"At a time where we are seeing cases and deaths increase in Monmouth it is totally unacceptable and irresponsible to be engaging in such gatherings which will undoubtedly contribute to spread," Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden told New Jersey 101.5.
Rumson Police said in their Facebook post that the department "takes no enjoyment in ruining anyone’s fun," but that there is a shared responsibility to take the pandemic seriously, while also being "a good role model for our children."
Police have cracked down on other gatherings around the state, including parties, weddings and funerals, and Murphy has referred to attendees as "knuckleheads" no matter their age.
"A knucklehead is a knucklehead. I don’t discriminate based on age. We need everybody to get with the program, to comply, to get us to 100% compliance. Period, full stop," Murphy said at his daily briefing on Friday. Police have started to charge not just the homeowner or business owner at gatherings but all who attend.
Keyport police said their waterfront area was closed on Saturday by a large gathering, according to a post on the department Facebook page.
"We will not be reopening our parking lots to ensure the safety of the public and also our employees, who are still out there being called upon to help remind everyone to social distance," the department wrote.
Gloucester Township police also issued a warning on their Facebook page Sunday morning about gatherings at residences and of children gathering in groups.
"We would like to remind everyone that there is an executive order in place. Gatherings are not allowed and residents are to maintain social distancing if you need to go out for necessities or exercise," Gloucester Township police wrote.
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