Gov. Phil Murphy is expressing concern about the wild pop-up party that drew thousands and spiraled out of control in Long Branch over the weekend.

But he stopped short of offering any sort of solution to stop future gatherings that are advertised on social media as a bring-your-own-booze-and-weed celebrations from overtaking and threatening communities this summer.

Saturday night in Long Branch, cops deployed disorientation devices, including smoke and a flash-bang, and made more than a dozen arrests for fighting and vandalism after some in the crowd of nearly 5,000 young people became rowdy, loud and wild, prompting an emergency overnight curfew.

No injuries were reported from the police action although there were injuries from fights and a police vehicle was damaged by a vandal.

During a visit to the College of New Jersey on Monday, Murphy suggested this sort of situation is not surprising.

“You’re coming out of a pandemic where people are desperate to get back out and scream from the highest mountains and get back in with other people. I get that and we have to figure out responsible ways for that to happen,” he said.

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No crisp answer

The governor said while he doesn’t have a crisp answer as to how to keep these kinds of parties from spiraling out of control, he is concerned about the social media postings that tell revelers a “beach linkup” is taking place on a certain day in a certain locations, and invites them to bring their own liquor and weed.

“It makes it look as though, in this case, that Long Branch was all in on this, that it was an official 'hey, come on down, they’re letting us have the run of the place' — and that wasn’t the case,” he said.

He noted “at the end of the day, given the scale of the people that were there, I think the response met the moment, and the results are in the relatively modest measures of civil unrest."

Murphy said officials are “aware of and tracking” other social media posts that advertise a "Part 2" event on June 19 that invites partygoers back to Long Branch, suggests they bring their own alcohol and pot, and announces there will be a $1000 twerk contest.

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“There are places where 5,000 people can go in New Jersey — that’s the good news, we can set that up, we can do it smartly. But we’ve got to make sure that’s got the whole forethought associated with that,” he said.

Long Branch Mayor John Pallone said municipal officials are considering legal action against social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram for allowing users to share promotions for unauthorized mass events.

Pallone said the city contacted Murphy's office for help.

"I want to be very clear that people that want to visit Long Branch are welcome here," Pallone said Monday. "However, our city is not going to be a place for those that will disrespect our city, public spaces, streets, or businesses with acts of violence, drinking or smoking."

Pallone said the police department "was made aware of a possible 'pop up' beach party earlier last week and was prepared to mobilize for the event with the help of other local, county, and state agencies."

"These gatherings start as social media posts which entice young people to come to the beach area and attract most visitors to come here by train. These flyers promote drinking and smoking in public areas which is illegal," he said.

Small businesses were hurt

The governor said the big challenge is to figure out a way to allow people to gather peacefully, get out and back with each other again as we all want to do, but to do it in a way and a place that affords that to happen without collateral damage.”

He noted, “the small businesses in Pier Village didn’t get through it, they all had to close, so that’s something that’s not acceptable.”

When Murphy was asked if he thought it would be a good idea to have a bigger police presence at future pop-up party events to dissuade young people from misbehaving, he said “we take this stuff very seriously.”

He also declined to comment on a suggestion by state Sen. Bob Singer, R-Ocean, that Murphy organize a task force to address the threat these kinds of celebrations pose to shore communities.

The governor said an after-action report is being prepared on the incident, and he praised the efforts of the State Police in responding to the scene.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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