As we mark International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the economic, political and social impact of women around the world, I think it is also a time to pause to recognize the sad irony of today’s International Women’s Day celebration, in the context of the events of this past weekend in Hoboken.
I have attended every St. Patrick’s Day Parade since day one, this weekend’s numerous acts of violence, including knife and gun assaults, and the two reported sexual assaults, have signaled a new, more ominous tone to the parade weekend.
I have seen some pretty awful behavior on parade days in years past. What happened in our city this past weekend crossed into a new level of depravity. What was once just a crude display of drunkenness, punctuated by public lewdness and disrespect of private property, has degenerated into an environment where not only women are sexually assaulted, but police officers and firefighters have to battle a barrage of bottles and, in one reported case, human feces, to do their job. This is an outrage and we will not stand for it.
I proposed the original “Zero Tolerance” ordinance in 2009. Today, I proposed that the council revisit that ordinance as a way to show the public that the city is reacting to its serious concerns. Hoboken was a hostile place to be this weekend, especially for women. We can’t tell the world that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a smashing success when we know that at least two women were sexually assaulted and that fights were breaking out across the city well into the night. The bitter truth is that this day has become a scourge on our community. There is no other way to say it. We are compelled to take action because we represent the citizen’s of Hoboken, who have suffered this insult long enough.
Among the proposals I will present to the city council are:
- Moving the parade to a weekday.
- Restricting beer and liquor service to 11 a.m., year round.
- Examine public safety staffing requirements for a 50,000-person city.
- Overhaul current emergency plan for parades and events.
- Hold a working public hearing, including testimony from residents, representatives of the city’s hospitality industry, and public safety officials. Come up with community-driven ideas for solutions and compromise.
- Enforce the Zero Tolerance policy, 12 months out of the year.
- Keep municipal courts open to process violations during special events.
- Reinstate stricter community service requirements, and reinstate reporting of arrests in defendants’ hometown newspapers.
No one person can be held responsible for the events of last weekend. We must all take responsibility for what’s happened to this parade, legislators who failed to get tough laws on the books, an industry that can sometimes puts profits over community, and those who tolerate and encourage behavior that is detrimental to our city. I hope this is a first step towards taking back our parade and celebration.