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Smoke bomb suspect screams ‘white lives matter’ in attack at church concert for social justice: Police

A man shouted, "White Lives Matter!" at a crowd was arrested in an attack at a social justice concert at a church in New Jersey in January 2023. (Screenshot from ABC7NY)

A man shouted, “White Lives Matter!” at a crowd and threw smoke bombs in an attack at a social justice concert in a New Jersey church in January 2023. (Screenshot from ABC7NY)

Authorities arrested a man they said shouted, “White Lives Matter!” while throwing smoke bombs and trying to pepper spray attendees leaving a concert promoting social justice at a church in New Jersey.

Nicholas Mucci, 28, was arrested Saturday night, the state’s Attorney General’s Office said in a news release. He faces charges of causing or risking widespread injury or damage, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, arson, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, and possession of a destructive device.

“New Jersey is, and always will be, a state that values the rich diversity of all cultures, religions, and ideals,” said Attorney General Matthew Platkin in a statement. “This attack targeted people exercising their freedom of expression as they left a house of worship. Our perseverance in investigating and bringing to justice the person responsible for this attack demonstrates our commitment to protecting the rights of all New Jerseyans to live free from the threat of violence and fear.”

Mucci, wearing a black face covering, blocked concertgoers as they tried to leave a concert on Jan. 27 at the Trinity Episcopal Parish in Asbury Park, authorities said. Nobody was hurt. The show, organized by “One People’s Project,” promotes social justice.

Mucci allegedly yelled, “white lives matter, too!” and threw two smoke bombs into the crowd before driving off in a dark-colored SUV, authorities said. An hour later, officials said Mucci returned and tried to pepper spray the group, shouting, “white lives matter!” again, before driving off.

Authorities say they connected the suspect through a license plate reader that captured a vehicle matching the description of his vehicle seen in the area at the time. He bought the smoke bombs from a fireworks store in Pennsylvania, authorities said.

The Light Brigade Collective, which features punk, hardcore, and hip-hop events to raise money for local social justice organizations, said at the time on its Instagram page that bigotry, violence or hateful behavior would not be tolerated or welcomed.

“We look to build community through the arts with an anti-oppression lens while also supporting large movements and organizations for collective liberation,” the collective said.

The Rev. Chase Danford said churchgoers were shocked.

“One of the things I said in my sermon yesterday was just how perverse it is that dangerous people have made places of safety into places of fear,” he told New York’s PIX11 News.

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