As tens of thousands emptied out onto Red Bank streets following Sunday’s KaBoom fireworks show it became clear why the borough beefed up its police presence for this year’s event and, still, just how fast a situation can turn ugly with only the slightest provocation.
On Front Street immediately following the fireworks show, a large crowd circled a running automobile sitting sideways in the middle of the street. In the car an unidentified man sat behind the wheel, looking confused, as hordes of people began to pound on the hood and roof of his late model BMW, one even tearing the gas cover off of the side of the car.
Why he attempted to drive through a crowd of thousands on a blocked-off Front Street remains to be seen – no police report has been released yet, despite requests made more than 24 hours following the incident – but as he laid on the horn and as more and more people started shouting and crowding the car, police opened his door, pulled him out of his car, and tackled him to the ground.
As two officers struggled to put the bewildered man – driving a car with handicap tags – in handcuffs, the crowd began to yell and pound more feverishly on the car, joining each other in a moronic chant of “U.S.A, U.S.A,” before someone in the crowd smashed the car’s back windshield, scattering some and eliciting shoves between some others.
A testament to the concerted efforts of the borough and its police department, efforts that have been in the works for months, the situation, just short of running out of control, was seemingly resolved in mere minutes. Shortly after the incident began, nearly a dozen police officers from Red Bank and adjacent towns arrived on foot to calm the situation. Just a minute later, several more officers arrived on motorcycles and on bikes.
Following complaints of numerous incidents of fighting and underage drinking at last year’s KaBoom! Fireworks on the Navesink, and facing calls from some to disband a more than 50-year-old tradition that may have grown too large for Red Bank, organizers of the event promised a return to community and family-oriented entertainment.
Among the steps taken by KaBoom and the borough was enacting stiffer penalties for troublemakers and bringing in more police. Borough council passed a resolution calling for maximum fines for violators and promised zero-tolerance against, as Mayor Pat Menna put it, “anti-social behavior.”
To bolster its ranks, the Red Bank Police Department contracted with officers from nearby departments, including Middletown, Matawan, and Brick, among others. Capt. Darren McConnell promised cops on every corner, and, true to his word, police could be seen from most every standing position throughout the borough’s downtown.
With a national holiday – Fourth of July, of course – following KaBoomFest, Red Bank’s police department has not yet released information about the number of arrests it made Sunday night. According to some unofficial reports, while there were large numbers of rowdy teens and intoxicated young people meandering around post-fireworks, criminal incidents were low.