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Lakewood youths protest in streets demanding summer sleepaway camps reopen

APP.com (Asbury Park, NJ) logo APP.com (Asbury Park, NJ) 6/17/2020 Gustavo Martínez Contreras, Asbury Park Press
a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Hundreds of Orthodox Jewish youth took to the streets of Lakewood Tuesday to protest against the cancellation of summer sleepaway camps in New York. © Gustavo Martínez Contreras Hundreds of Orthodox Jewish youth took to the streets of Lakewood Tuesday to protest against the cancellation of summer sleepaway camps in New York.

LAKEWOOD - Riding bikes and scooters, hundreds of Jewish youth took to the streets and blocked traffic here Tuesday night to demand that sleepaway summer camps in New York open this year.

Chanting "no camps, no peace!" and "we want camp!" the contingent stood at the intersection of County Line Road and Park Avenue. Township police shut down streets and made drivers use alternate roads.

The demonstration comes on the heels of similar protests in New York after health officials there canceled sleepaway summer camps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Day camps there will open June 29. But that doesn't help the thousands of devout  Jewish youths in this corner of the Jersey Shore who usually spend summer in these camps.  

Many of these young boys and girls told the Press that these camps mean a chance to learn the Torah away from home and take a break from school, something they need after months of staying at home.

"It's important for us to go to camp because it helps us learn better," said a 15-year-old who didn't want to give his name.  

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Shortly after 8 p.m., the protesters began mobilizing east on County Line Road and turned left on Somerset Avenue.They walked in front of Lakewood High School as they chanted and sang.

Some of their chants were borrowed from the Black Lives Matter protests happening across the country. The youth shouted "Hands up! Don't shoot!" as police escorted them.

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Hundreds of Orthodox Jewish youth took to the streets of Lakewood to protest against the cancellation of summer sleepaway camps in New York. © Gustavo Martínez Contreras Hundreds of Orthodox Jewish youth took to the streets of Lakewood to protest against the cancellation of summer sleepaway camps in New York.

Some protesters approached the Press to ask, "Who told you about this? This wasn't planned!"

People came out of their homes to see what was happening and even scolded the young protesters from being on the street. 

"Get on the sidewalk now!" a man shouted at the passing youth.

The protesters later turned east on Seventh Street, their numbers dwindling as the night got darker.

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Gustavo Martínez Contreras covers Lakewood. Contact him at gmartinez@gannettnj.com or at 732-643-4061.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Lakewood youths protest in streets demanding summer sleepaway camps reopen

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