New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy slammed the YouTube stars Nelk Boys on Wednesday after a crowd of roughly 2,500 mostly maskless fans descended on Seaside Heights, New Jersey, for pop-up events touched off by the group’s appearance in the borough.
Murphy said the events in Seaside Heights Monday night, which were broken up by police, may be the most “extreme” and “egregious display of knucklehead behavior” the state has seen during the coronavirus pandemic.
Crowds of revelers gathered outside the “Jersey Shore” house, made famous as the one-time home of cast members from the hit MTV reality series, where the Nelk Boys were staying to promote the debut of new merchandise. A short distance away, another group of about 1,000 fans gathered for a related car club show, police said.
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“It’s exactly the type of situation we cannot have,” Murphy said at a coronavirus briefing in Trenton. “It was irresponsible from top to bottom in every respect. And these so-called influencers need to be taken to task.”
The governor said the Nelk Boys, a Canadian comedy trio known for their prank videos, “succeeded in getting the notoriety they wanted, but obviously don’t deserve.”
The governor urged everyone who was in the crowd to get tested for the virus, saying those sorts of gatherings where people are packed tightly together and not wearing masks are “how coronavirus spreads most easily.”
The governor said young people, who made up the vast majority of the crowd in Seaside Heights Monday, are testing positive for the coronavirus at a rate about three times higher than the state’s general population.
Murphy, who has used press briefings throughout the pandemic to take people and businesses to task for behavior viewed as harmful to the state’s coronavirus efforts, said the Nelk Boys showed “willful negligence for public health in a pandemic.”
The swelling crowds generated a massive response from police all over Ocean County to disperse the crowd. Authorities made eight arrests for disorderly conduct, obstruction and resisting arrest, police said.
At one point, some in the crowd threw glass bottles and rocks at officers who were making a disorderly persons arrest, authorities said.
Seaside Heights police Chief Thomas Boyd ordered the borough closed off to non-resident traffic until the gatherings were disbanded, which happened largely peacefully, authorities said.
Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz told the Asbury Park Press Tuesday the borough would seek “restitution” from the Nelk Boys for the costs involved in dispersing the crowd.
In a pair of videos posted on Twitter Tuesday, Nelk Boys member Kyle Forgeard said the group did not organize any large public events in Seaside Heights. Foregeard said the group planned to stay in the “Jersey Shore” house because it was a “legendary spot” to record videos and promote new merchandise for their Full Send brand.
They arranged for off-duty police officers to work with their own security to control fans. The Nelk Boys teased their appearance in Seaside Heights in a video posted on social media earlier Monday.
“Word just spreads like absolute wildfire in these (expletive) towns,” Foregeard said in the video. “We can’t even post a story of where we’re at anymore because people are just going to pull up, and then we’re going to get in (expletive) for starting a large gathering because of COVID.”
Foregeard said the situation in Seaside Heights was a “learning experience” for the group.
“It’s all new to us,” he said. “We’re not used to it and I guess we’re learning the hard way.”
Last week, YouTube sanctioned their account after the Nelk Boys were accused of throwing massive parties at Illinois State University, BuzzFeed reported. The parties are being investigated by the university as a possible violation of COVID-19 guidelines.
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The Nelk Boys, which include Foregeard, Jesse Sebastiani, and Steve Deleonardis as full-time members, have attracted about 5.7 million subscribers on YouTube. Their videos are full of pranks, stunts and scenes of college party culture.
In February, the group announced on Instagram that they purchased a home in Los Angeles. The trio dubbed their new digs the “FULLSEND House,” the same name as their merchandise brand.