A wild scene on Long Island over the weekend quickly turned ugly and violent, as police were forced to break up a crowd of around 800 young people on a popular beach and boardwalk, many of whom were not wearing masks.
The crowd in Long Beach on Saturday was made up of college-aged men and women, according to Acting Police Commissioner Philip Ragona. He said in addition to alcohol being present (where it is prohibited), there was little to no social distancing, along with loud music playing and even a few small fights.
The swarm of hundreds turned their focus on the police when they arrived later into the night.
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“The group was extremely combative, they were throwing bottles at the police cars, at one point they circled the police car,” Ragona said. “We are fortunate no officers were injured and no partiers were injured.”
The party was called Senior Sunset Part 2, and was promoted on social media, where people were told to gather a Riptides Café – the owner of which was completely unaware of the event. On Monday, Brian Braddish was livid with the situation as he pointed to video posted on social media of the chaos outside his café.
“There’s a real safety issue going on here. That amount of kids down here no lifeguards on the water it can be very concerning,” Braddish said. He added that Saturday’s part was the third one of its kind to have taken place on Long Beach since March, the of the pandemic and subsequent shutdown. Braddish said he’s concerned about the safety of his workers, who are at the café well into the evening.
“I think they need to put chains up across the boardwalk and I think they need to put security up at night, and it will stop people from coming down,” Braddish said. Others in town, residents and visitors, seemed to agree with that sentiment.
Acting Police Commissioner Ragona said that idea is being considered along with other options. He said officers were sent to the area at 6 p.m., when the party was advertised online, but crowds didn’t appear until after 9 p.m.
He also said no arrests were made at the time, because he believes it would have escalated the situation.
“In a situation that volatile and fluid, we have to triage our police actions,” Ragona said. “We had to make sure we protected life and property, to get them off the boardwalk, to distant them.”
As a result of the large gatherings, Long Beach City Council made the decision to adjust hours of operation at the beach. Officials will start getting people off the sand in Long Beach starting at 8 p.m. — whereas usually people are allowed until 11 p.m. Additionally, the boardwalk itself with be closed at 9 p.m. each night, with physical barriers placed at the entrance.
Non-resident visitors will also have a new set of rules to deal with, as daily passes will only be available to be purchased Monday through Thursday — meaning non-residents without a beach pass effectively won't be allowed to go to Long Beach on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Violators will be fines $500, and the new rules are set to go into effect on July 23.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said maskless crowds like the weekend one in Long Beach are one of two key threats to New York's COVID progress. He said the problem has been most obvious in New York City, but called out Long Island and parts of upstate New York as also having compliance issues. On Monday, Cuomo threatened to roll back New York City's reopening if behavior doesn't improve.