Mask-less buzz about Freehold Raceway Mall: ‘Unsanctioned’ event
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Law enforcement at all levels have their eyes on a social media push to draw out mask-less shoppers over the upcoming weekend at a mall in Monmouth County, despite pandemic protocols still requiring masks inside all public places.
“Not only are we aware of this ridiculous flier that's gone around about mask-less shopping but I am personally aware of it and extremely unhappy about it,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at Wednesday’s state pandemic briefing.
Monmouth County and state law enforcement also were aware of the apparent social media efforts, State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan said at the same briefing.
On Thursday, State Police said they were monitoring the situation and "working closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners including the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness."
The online messaging appeared to originate with the “Patriot Party of New Jersey,” according to police.
“We are aware of the anticipated mask-less gathering at the Raceway Mall and have been in contact with Raceway Mall Security regarding the event. From the time the information was posted to social media we have received numerous tips and we thank the community for their attention in this matter,” Freehold Township Police said in response to New Jersey 101.5 on Thursday.
“As a reminder, per Executive Order 163, masks continue to be required in indoor retail establishments,” police added.
State Police previously have clarified repeatedly, since April 2020, that violation of the state’s emergency orders is a disorderly persons offense, carrying a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Such violations are charged by summons, without arrest.
"This is an unsanctioned event. Freehold Raceway Mall is a private property and enforces a Code of Conduct as well as all state and local health and safety orders," a spokesperson for Freehold Raceway Mall said in response to New Jersey 101.5.
"That said, masks are required to visit the mall and we also ask that people respect individual store and restaurant policies that require masks as well. We are in close communication with law enforcement in regards to this event," she added.
State Homeland Security Director Jared Maples said on Wednesday that his office is “in constant coordination and communication with law enforcement and the private sector.”
Callahan and Murphy also both extended empathy toward store owners, as faced with such uncertain attention.
"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,” Callahan previously said on Wednesday.