Judge won't block jobs demonstration at Port Newark on Monday

By Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on July 17, 2016

A demonstration at Port Newark, shown here in a file photo, can proceed as scheduled on Monday, a state Judge ordered, after the Port Authrority of New York and New Jersey had sought to block it, citing logistical and safety concerns.

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NEWARK — A demonstration led by Newark's mayor demanding port jobs for city residents is scheduled to proceed Monday, after a state judge refused a request to block it by the Port Authority, which had cited logistical and safety concerns in the wake of anti-police violence around the country.

Mayor Ras Baraka plans to lead a motorcade of up to 100 vehicles through Port Newark to demand more city residents get the lucrative longshoreman jobs and other jobs generated by the port.

The motorcade is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Port Newark, the main hub of the Port of New York and New Jersey, which, along with container and bulk cargo terminals in Elizabeth, Jersey City, Bayonne, Brooklyn and Staten Island, make up the Port of New York and New Jersey, the East Coast's busiest shipping port.

Baraka has been aggressive in trying to maximize revenues for his cash-strapped city from the Port Authority, which has long-term leases on city property occupied by Port Newark and Newark Liberty International Airport.

Baraka is also among those who have publicly called for the hiring of more Newark residents as longshoremen, though the Port Authority has little direct influence in filling those jobs. Rather, those jobs go to members of the International Longshoremen's Association union, who are hired by private companies after undergoing background checks by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Walter Koprowski Jr. in Newark ordered the Port Authority and Newark Police departments to work together to devise a safety plan for the motorcade.

The order states that, "the parties agree to engage in good faith negotiations pursuant to the Port Authority's permit process for expressive activity."

"The Port Authority retains the right to place in the permit reasonable time, place and manner restrictions which will be applicable to this demonstration," the order continued. "Further ordered that the City of Newark and any other defendants agree to comply with the Port Authority's rules and regulations for expressive activity at Port Newark for this demonstration."

In the order, Koprowski reserved the right to reopen the matter should negotiations break down.   

A spokesman for the Port Authority said the bi-state agency would comply with the order.

"The City will have a permit for the protest," the spokesman, Steve Coleman, said in an email Sunday. "It will be a motorcade and they will not be getting out of their vehicles. The permit allows up to 100 cars but they have told us it will be far less. We do not anticipate any major disruption to port operations although we have notified all stakeholders. We do not comment on PAPD deployment for any operation that we handle."

The protest dispute arose amid broader, ongoing tensions between the Port Authority and the city, whose largely working class, minority residents breath the emissions from port trucks that traverse residential neighborhoods that abut the port, carrying goods from China and other export nations to stores and consumers throughout the region.

On Sunday, a city spokesman dismissed the notion that the demonstration would pose a safety threat to police officers.

"The PA wanted to stop the march but not because of the anti-police climate, no matter what they might say," Baraff stated in an email. "After all, the Newark Police are supportive of and protective of demonstrators. That said, the PA took the city of Newark to court to try to stop the demonstration, but a judge ruled that the demonstration could continue, but that our police and the PA police needed to meet over the weekend to work out details. That has occurred."

But the safety of officers is a deep-seeded concern for the Port Authority Police, which lost 38 officers in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. That attack has been been evoked repeatedly in the wake of the Dallas shootings on July 7 that left five officers dead, the highest police death toll in any one incident since the 2001 Trade Center attack.  

The Port Authority raised its concerns even before the killing of three officers Sunday morning in Baton Rouge, La., the location of one of two shootings of black men by police that prompted the otherwise peaceful demonstration in Dallas where police were shot by a sniper.

On Sunday, the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association released a statement saying it was "shocked and saddened" by the Louisiana shootings, in which one suspect was also killed.

"Every decent, law-abiding American should be shaken to their core by the current assault on law enforcement," read the statement, issued by PAPBA President Paul Nunziato. "We ask our political leaders to come together and speak as one in an effort to once again united this great nation toward the goal of safety and security for all. We also ask these same leaders to unequivocally condemn those who espouse violence as a means to settle their grievances."

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