Wildwood civil unrest prompts NJ to issue overnight state of emergency

New Jersey officials declared an overnight state of emergency early Monday in response to “civil unrest” throughout the weekend along the Wildwood boardwalk near the state’s southern tip.

The boardwalk was reopened by 6 a.m. on Monday when Wildwood “was able to effectively address numerous incidents of civil unrest and ensure the safety and welfare of our residents and visitors,” officials said.

The Wildwood Police Department said “it began to respond to an irrepressible number of calls for service” Saturday night as an “extremely large number of young adults and juveniles” arrived for Memorial Day weekend.

The high volume of calls left authorities unable to respond to some calls for service throughout Cape May County, officials said.

A state of emergency was declared in the first minutes of Monday, “when conditions again began to deteriorate despite the presence and efforts of local police officers and multiple mutual aid law enforcement agencies,” according to a joint press release issued by the city of Wildwood and its police force Monday afternoon.

City officials posted online just after the start of Memorial Day, stating, “Out of an abundance of caution due to emergency conditions that have resulted from civil unrest threatening the public health, safety and welfare of our residents and visitors alike, the city of Wildwood has declared a state of emergency in order to maintain law and order within our jurisdiction.”

Beyond crowding, the specific nature of any activities that might have caused access to the boardwalk to be restricted is unclear.

“We had measures in place ahead of the Sunday night crowds so that the police department could take these preemptive actions should the need arise,” according to public safety chief Steve Mikulski. “Unfortunately, the crowds necessitated the state of emergency to which our police department and other responding departments worked together to maintain order in the city.”

Authorities said that, out of respect for the somber Memorial Day holiday, they would make no further addresses regarding the weekend’s chaos.

A 15-year-old boy was reportedly stabbed during a Saturday night fight on the boardwalk near Ocean City. CBS News said that incident appeared unrelated to Monday’s state of emergency.

Popup parties along the boardwalk were a problem for law enforcement officials around this time last year.

In late April 2023, Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland alerted “organizers and attendees of any such unsanctioned and promoted events” that they would be prosecuted to “the fullest extent possible under the law.”