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Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Grewal directs prosecutors to drop charges against protest organizers

Attorney general issues guidance on COVID-19 order enforcement

By Nikita Biryukov, June 17 2020 4:07 pm

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal directed the state’s municipal prosecutors to drop executive order violation charges against protest organizers as part of new COVID-19 enforcement guidance released Wednesday.

Grewal’s office is aware of five such citations.

The move comes after Gov. Phil Murphy last week removed gathering limits for protests and religious services.

Those restrictions were lifted after Murphy faced backlash over his attendance of Black Lives Matter protests in Hillside and Westfield.

Wednesday’s guidance bars municipalities from refusing to enforce all COVID-19 related charges, but asks prosecutors to consider the person’s history and whether their violation of a given executive order endangered anyone else.

Prosecutors can still accept pleas to lesser offenses and request charges against an alleged offender be dismissed.

“While the vast majority of New Jersey residents followed the Governor’s Executive Orders and helped us to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, and continue to do so, some did not,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We have a duty as law enforcement officers to bring violators to justice, and to do so in a way that ensures uniformity. We also have a responsibility to exercise discretion in the interests of justice, including to use diversion programs and community court if available.”

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