TOMS RIVER, NJ – You can’t help but to think Toms River Police and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department are playing down Tuesday’s BLM protest being held in Downtown Toms River, but local businesses aren’t taking any chances and don’t have the same level of comfort as local law enforcement agencies. This afternoon, businesses began boarding up their storefronts from Route 37 down to Water Street ahead of the protests. We reached out earlier to both the Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little and Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy regarding several warnings of threats against the community on social media. We received no response from Mastronardy and Mitch Little responded via his assistant, Jillian Messina with a canned message posted by police earlier on Facebook.
Exit 82 Scanner News today posted some photos of businesses, most of which have been closed for two-months from the Phil Murphy lockdown, putting plywood sheets over their storefront windows ahead of the protest.
The ominous scene is playing out just two weeks before these businesses have been told they can reopen by the Governor today and just days after Toms River announced restaurants, including those businesses located downtown, can reopen in two weeks with sidewalk dining service.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer today echoed the sentiments of both Little and Mastronardy promising that tomorrow’s protest will be peaceful and not degrade into violence as others around the country have over the past three days.
One post circulated on social media today warning residents to avoid Downtown Toms River, including Kohl’s department store, noting protesters will be marching between 10 am and 8 pm. Another said the protest will happen downtown next to the Ocean County Administration Building at the corner of Hooper Avenue and Washington Street.
Billhimer said the threatening post was unfounded.
“We are expecting a peaceful protest/gathering tomorrow June 2, 2020, in Toms River. We stand in solidarity with those that wish to protest peacefully,” Prosecutor Billhimer said. “We are aware of rumors circulating on social media regarding this protest/gathering and there is no evidence at this time to support those rumors. In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we will be ready handle any situation that may arise.”
The Toms River Police Department and Ocean County Sheriff’s Department echoed similar messages throughout the day.