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Rally expense may top $53,000

07/06/01

BY BILL SWAYZE AND JEAN MANSUR
STAR-LEDGER STAFF

Law enforcement agencies pulled out their calculators yesterday to begin tallying the cost of providing police protection at a white supremacist's rally Wednesday in Morristown.

Nearly 350 officers from 36 Morris County towns, the county sheriff's office, prosecutor's office, county park police and Passaic County Sheriff's Office mounted patrol were on hand to keep peace between white supremacist Richard Barrett and about 400 shouting counterdemonstrators in front of the Morris County Courthouse.

Early estimates put the overtime costs at more than $53,000, although many departments have not finished their calculations.

The Fourth of July was no holiday again for Morristown officers, who could not take the day off last year when Barrett held his first rally in town. With all 59 officers on duty, the town expects to pay about the same amount in overtime as last year, when the cost was $20,487.

Twenty-one of the towns that sent 56 additional officers to assist Morristown on Wednesday for the four-hour event say the expense will run about $32,616. Most departments rearranged schedules to limit the overtime costs, which run from a high of $5,000 for the 12 Madison officers to no extra costs for Rockaway Township and Mountain Lakes, which each sent eight officers, authorities said.

Total overtime costs for the remaining 14 municipalities and county agencies were unavailable yesterday. Some local and county officials said it could take several days to tally the number. Last year, local law enforcement racked up more than $112,600 in overtime costs.

Each town will pay for the overtime and will not be reimbursed by Morristown, one of the conditions of an emergency response agreement in which all of the county's 39 municipalities participate.

After last year's rally, police were prepared for the worst Wednesday. Barrett, the 57-year-old leader of the Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement, drew only eight supporters last year, but more than 300 counterdemonstrators descended on the town. Ten were arrested after protesters knocked over barricades and tried to attack Barrett.

On Wednesday, the counterdemonstrators were loud but relatively peaceful after being searched at checkpoints by officers equipped with hand-held metal detectors. The only fireworks were the arrests of two men who posed as supporters and helped Barrett set up his equipment, then ran amok before Barrett started speaking, knocking over his podium and sound system and tossing aside two of his Nationalist Movement flags.

A third person was charged with weapons possession after police found him at a checkpoint with a switchblade and metal knuckles, authorities said.

Barrett, meanwhile, drew just two supporters for an event county Sheriff Ed Rochford called "a dud. He really bombed out. I think he was embarrassed."

Morristown police Chief Carol Williams noted, "We approached the day with a great deal of confidence. We knew the job at hand and we accomplished what we wanted to do."

Authorities credited police Lt. Peter Demnitz, who organized the police response, attending out-of- state rallies and brushing up on First Amendment case law. In turn, he credited the checkpoints, the 3,000 feet of interlocking barricades on the streets around the courthouse and the police officers on hand.

"It all came down to the cops on the front lines," he said. "They were real professionals. These guys executed on the day of the game."

Staff writers Gabriel Gluck and Lawrence Ragonese contributed to this report.

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© 2001 The Star-Ledger. Used by NJ.com with permission.

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