Newton Green hours may limit protester’s vigil plans

Newton Green hours may limit protester's vigil plans

Above photo: Photo by Jake West/New Jersey Herald – Sgt. Steve Benson of the Newton Police Department, right, goes over the park rules and regulations with Wendy Goetz prior to her planned 50-hour protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Tuesday on The Green in Newton

By Rob Jennings for the New Jersey Herald

NEWTON — If anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership protester Wendy Goetz wants to maintain a 50-hour vigil on the Newton Green, she’ll have to keep moving.

Soon after Goetz launched her marathon demonstration on Tuesday evening, a Newton police officer presented her with a 2002 municipal ordinance barring the public from the county park after 11 p.m. and before 6 a.m.

The ordinance, modeled after a regulation last updated by the Sussex County freeholder board in 1986, established a steep penalty: Up to 90 days in the county jail, a $200 fine, or both.

However, there is a loophole, Goetz said in recounting her discussion with Newton Police Sgt. Steve Benson. The after-hours ban apparently would not apply to someone walking around or through the Green.

“He said that if I would like to walk 50 miles around the square in the next three days, that would be OK,” Goetz said.

Interviewed just before 6 p.m., a half-hour into her effort, Goetz said she was not sure what might happen at 11 p.m. but said she would not do anything to precipitate an arrest.

Goetz lives in Frelinghuysen, but prior to arriving had made plans for bathroom breaks and perhaps a shower at the home of a nearby friend.

“I don’t want to end up in jail. Don’t want to clog up any resources for me,” Goetz said.

Goetz, by that point, had been joined on the Newton Green by five others, including former New Jersey Assembly candidate Kenneth Collins, of Andover Township.

She said she was the only one who had contemplated finishing the 50-hour vigil.

In November, Goetz was among those launching the weekly protests, Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the Newton Green. Their goal was publicizing their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement with 11 other nations, supported by President Obama.

Goetz, on Monday, said she came up with the idea of a 50-hour vigil — from 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through 7:30 p.m. Thursday — to coincide with ratification discussions Wednesday in New Zealand. Protests in seven countries are planned for Thursday.

Rob Jennings also can be contacted on Twitter: @RJenningsNJH or by phone: 973-383-1230.