A rally protesting illegal immigration that was initially canceled for safety reasons is back on, though saddled this time with an entrance fee and closed doors.
The demonstration, now set for Oct. 20 at the American Legion post on Route 9, will offer better protection for the audience and speakers, according to its organizer, Diane Reaves.
Despite months of planning and a list of confirmed speakers, Reaves canceled the Aug. 25 rally at the town square on Clifton Avenue because of safety concerns. Rumors had floated that Latino gangs and out-of-town militant groups would show up and disrupt the event.
Township officials defended their decision not to promise full security for a private rally. It has always been the policy to require that private events—whether rallies, block parties or BlueClaws games—hire off-duty officers, Mayor Raymond Coles said.
Nonetheless, news of the cancelation drew anger from area residents accusing the town of being soft on illegal immigration.
Coles said the township would be giving the same answers to organizers of a pro-immigration demonstration.
The mayor said he did feel slightly better about the rescheduled protest because it is more low-key and contained.
Eugenio Espinosa, of the Puerto Rican Action Board in Lakewood, said he expected this rally to be as peaceful as the pro-immigration march that he was part of in Toms River two years ago.
Angelo Barone, the legion’s first vice commander, said the venue can hold 200 people for the Oct. 20 demonstration. The entrance fee will be $10, to cover the cost of renting out the legion hall. Reaves declined to reveal what that cost is, saying it was personal.