August 06, 2007 Jersey Journal

HOBOKEN - Yesterday's scheduled Puerto Rican Festival parade was delayed, then cancelled, and organizers and cops are each blaming the other.

The parade was supposed to kick off at noon in front of City Hall and march up Washington Street to 10th Street, then over to the festival, which also had been held Friday and Saturday on Sinatra Drive.

By 1 p.m., the assembled marchers were told they couldn't have the parade because there weren't enough police available.

Although parade organizers had a permit from the city, police officials said the organizers did not request additional cops be assigned to work that day.

Organizers said they followed the same procedures as they had in previous years - and held meetings with police to discuss how the parade would be managed - and blamed the last-minute cancellation on politics.

"They have been trying to stop us from doing this and I don't know why," parade organizer Anthony Mussara said yesterday. "It's something good for the people."

Mussara said he had made the police department aware of the parade and said on Friday he had requested additional police officers be assigned to the festival, but was told there weren't any available. He said he was never told he needed to request police officers for the parade.

In addition to cancelling the parade, cops also pulled the festival's beer license yesterday, again citing insufficient security - although beer had been served on Friday and Saturday.

Capt. James Fitzsimmons said he had explained the rules carefully to the organizers and told them it was their responsibility to hire police officers and security for the parade and the festival.

"There were a set of rules and the rules were not adhered to," Fitzsimmons said. "The rules were set out for safety and security, not because we wanted to make things difficult for the organizers."

He said Mussara was aware he had to hire the officers and also promised to hire security, including two county sheriffs.

The organizers refused an alternative to run the parade down Frank Sinatra Boulevard, Fitzsimmons said. Mussara said he refused only because the offer came too late, after the marchers had already dispersed.

Mayor David Roberts said he would investigate what happened and left open the possibility that a parade would be held at a later date.

"I was disappointed they were not able to have a parade," Roberts said. "I will be happy to work with them so they can have the parade in the future."

Corporation Counsel Steven Kleinman said the event needed more investigation. "It is not clear exactly what happened here. If there is an issue that can be resolved we will work hard to see it can be done," he said. "It sounds like some possible miscommunication between police and organizers."

Councilman Ruben Ramos - who was honored at another Puerto Rican festival in June - said that he heard around 10 a.m. "on the street" that the parade had been cancelled, so he didn't go to the event.

"The parade hasn't been well-organized and well-attended - it's almost embarrassing," Ramos said. "It needs to be better organized."

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer, who attended the parade, said she tried to work with police and organizers to allow the parade to go on, but an arrangement couldn't be reached.

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