Four people were arrested for protesting at Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s home yesterday despite a court order, including Progressive Democrats of Hudson County members Hector Oseguera, who detailed his experience during a phone interview this afternoon.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“When you seek recourse against the law you need some sort of specificity. If a regular person tried to get the restraining order [DeGise] got, they would never get it. We were exercising out 1st Amendment rights,” Oseguera began.
“The officers there were very aggressive they were looking to arrest people … I honestly think it’s really sad that the county executive would go to these lengths to subject working class people, women of color, people of color, to this for expressing our freedom of speech rights to voice our concerns to a public official like Tom DeGise. He sort of signed up for this.”
The order says protesters cannot come with 200 feet of the county executive’s property, picketing can only occur between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., protests can only take place once every two weeks, and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office must be notified 24 hours prior to the start of any protest – which also cannot exceed 10 people.
Oseguera, a Union City resident; Stacey Kohn Gregg, of Wharton; Jake Ephros, of Jersey City; and Bryan Guevara, of North Bergen; were all charged with contempt for violating an order issued by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski yesterday that set specific parameters around protests, Sheriff Frank Schillari said.
Video of the incident posted on Instagram indicates that the majority of two dozen or so protesters were unaware of the order prior to arriving and the arrests occurred as many of the protesters were leaving after being told to disburse repeatedly.
Protests had started on Thursday evening in light of the board of chosen freeholders extending their agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), potentially through 2030, at their November 24th meeting.
While DeGise has been clear that he has no plans to cancel the contract, protesters or not, that hasn’t halted any of the activities in front of his home.
Additionally, Oseguera pointed out how difficult it is for someone with an abusive spouse or partner to get a restraining order, as well as that no one went to New York Avenue last night with the intention to get arrested.
Although things didn’t go as smoothly as he hoped, getting arrested around 10 p.m. and not getting back home until around 4 a.m., he is feeling confident about when he has his day in court.
“That court order is invalid in a lot of ways so we don’t feel compelled to abide by it. A judge can sign onto an illegal order: it happens sometimes. When we have our day in court, I’m pretty sure it won’t stand,” he explained.
Oseguera continued that Jablonski’s order will certainly be challenged, stating that counsel has been retained, but declined to name who will be representing the activists at this time.
Those charged last night currently have a court date set for December 30th at 1 p.m.
In a joint statement, others involved in the effort also pushed back against the court order and vowed to continue fighting.
“The Hudson County Sheriff’s [Office] has shown itself for what it is – the private goon squad of the county executive,” said Whitney Strub, co-point of the Immigrant Justice Working Group of the North New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America (NNJ DSA), who was present at the action.
“People in New Jersey are literally starving themselves to get out of immigration detention and be reunited with their families and Tom DeGise and the other Hudson County Freeholders can’t bear the sight of a handful of people telling them how morally bankrupt they are,” added Ephros, the secretary of the NNJ DSA.
“He keeps telling reporters how tough he is, but his character is as weak as it gets.”
In addition to going on the record with HCV, DeGise has spoken with TapInto and wrote an editorial for the Jersey Journal doubling down on his position that he won’t rescind the ICE contract to appease “left-wing extremists.”
“Too many Hudson residents whose families fled repressive regimes in countries abroad will find a familiar and haunting echo in the County Executive’s decision to use local media and the courts against the very public who have been begging through every other public channel to be heard,” expressed Amy Torres, a member of the Hudson County Progressive Alliance who is also named in DeGise’s complaint that spurned yesterday’s court order.