JERSEY CITY (CBSNewYork) — Several local papers are outraged after hundreds of newspaper distribution boxes suddenly vanished overnight in Jersey City.

Now, the papers are accusing Mayor Steven Fulop of violating their first amendment rights.

Contributors for The Jersey City Independent placed what they say is the only remaining distribution box in the city in protest after officials removed the 240 others from sidewalks earlier this month.

Fulop tweeted in part, “We continue to remove these from the streets as many are non functioning, they clutter the sidewalks, and many just become trash cans.”

“People should have been told, involved, or asked if this should happen,” contributor Erik Anders Nilsson said.

The paper’s editor says they were distributing up to 1,000 free papers per month in Jersey City.

“We had someone checking in on the box every few days making sure it was neat,” editor John Tarleton said.

Fulop says the boxes will be returned in a few weeks “in a place approved by City Council to make sure they’re safe and clean and appropriate for the city.”

The newspaper staff says they would have applied for a permit with Jersey City before putting placing their box in November, but any sort of application process wasn’t available. They charge the mayor is changing the rules mid-game.

“You don’t commit the crime and then create an ordinance to justify what you’ve done,” Anders Nilsson said.

So why wasn’t there a permit system in place?

“I can’t speak to why it was for 35 years, but there probably should’ve been and I haven’t been here that long but we’re fixing it,” Fulop said.

For their part, the papers say they’re protected by the Constitution.

“We don’t just want the box returned, we want the right to have the box back on the sidewalk,” Tarleton said.

The papers say they’ll continue to voice their concerns outside City Hall until their boxes are allowed back on the streets. Meantime, the boxes are being held at the Department of Public Works for owners to claim at any time.

Fulop says 50 have already been returned.

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