FREEHOLD – We held off on covering this story which we learned about on Friday as to not attract attention, but the “New Jersey Patriot Party” planned to host a maskless shopping event at the Freehold Mall. It’s unsure whether it was an internet publicity stunt or real, but police and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy didn’t take any chances.
The event was planned for Saturday and was immediately branded a “super spreader event”.
Mall officials said they contacted law enforcement as soon as they learned of the planned event.
“This is an unsanctioned event. Please be aware that Freehold Raceway Mall is a private property and enforces a Code of Conduct as well as all state and local health and safety orders,” mall operators warned. “That said, masks are required to visit the mall and we also ask that everyone respects the individual store and restaurant policies that require masks as well. We are in close communication with law enforcement in regards to this event.”
When asked if he knew about the event, Governor Phil Murphy said yes and that he and the New Jersey State Police were monitoring the situation.
“Not only are we aware of this ridiculous flier that’s gone around about maskless shopping but I am personally aware of it and extremely unhappy about it,” Murphy said. “Having said that, I’ll turn to the experts.”
Superintendent of the State Police Col. Pat Callahan said he was aware of the situation and was working with local law enforcement on the matter.
“We are aware of it. Our regional operations intelligence center staff in collaboration with Director Maples’s shop, county prosecutor’s office, local law enforcement aware of it,” Callahan said. “We have not formulated it but if we did, guidance would probably be two-pronged. It would go not only out to law enforcement but to store owners. Our early initial overview was in a time when businesses had been struggling to put them in a position that they may have to close their doors seemed hard to fathom for us.”
Murphy criticized the knuckleheads who organized the event, whether or not it was real or just a hoax. Murphy said it was reckless to put mall workers at risk for people to make a political statement.
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“They’re not law enforcement and to put them in a position – the overwhelming amount of whom have been doing, Pat, the right thing for day in and day out now for 13 months and make them be the guy or gal at the door that has to say to some knucklehead who’s trying to make a political statement that actually you can’t come in,” he said. “Therefore, you lose the business and/or you get into a confrontation. That’s the last thing we need right now.”
“The state police and OHSP were in lock-step, as we always are with these issues. Two quick points to emphasize; this really does show the importance of reporting through the system, whether it be local police department or through our See Something, Say Something campaign, so I want to emphasize that,” said Director of the Office of Homeland Security Jared Maples. “Then also, our direct connectivity with critical infrastructure partners like malls, like the stores, we maintain a almost daily contact with all of them. So yes, we are in constant coordination and communication with law enforcement and the private sector.”