NJ reacts to unjust killings of Black Americans

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Activist Larry Hamm speaks on the steps of Newark City Hall at a protest rally for the police killing George Floyd (City of Newark/Facebook photo)
By Bradford Mason

As nationwide outrage continues over the recent unjust killings of African Americans, New Jerseyans are joining the chorus for justice for the victims while calling for change to the criminal justice system.

The recent police killings of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky and 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by a former police officer, have sparked protests and demonstrations in the Garden State hoping to send a clear message to law enforcement.

Similar to other U.S. cities, thousands of people took to the streets of Newark on Saturday to protest the recent killings. Reports indicate that the protest was mostly peaceful

Newark-based activist organization the People’s Organization For Progress (POP) organized the protest, which started at the Lincoln Monument and made it's way through downtown Newark. The organization held a demonstration for Arbery in May.

"We will never stop marching or speaking for those killed by racialized terror.  We will not be quiet,” said activist Lawrence Hamm. “We will not be silent. We will continue to wage resistance against this systemic racism and its tool of violence. Here on the streets of Newark, in the halls of justice, and the floors of legislatures, we will stand up and speak out."

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka spoke at the protest about police brutality in communities.

"The terrible thing is that we have to fight two pandemics at one time," Baraka said. "We have to fight the pandemic of Coronavirus, that is unfortunately killing Black people, it's killing everybody but it's killing us the most, and we have to fight the pandemic of racism and white supremacy."

The NAACP New Jersey State Conference said in a statement that New Jerseyans outraged but what’s going on should contact their local law enforcement.

“Reach out to your local police and your local & state representatives to insist that THEY contact the ranking police officers where the incident took place, as well as their local and state legislative officials, to demand that these officers are truly held accountable for their actions,” the organization said.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement that the uprising across the country is being fueled by systematic racial issues that are constantly ignored.

As we’ve seen over the last few days, these issues have now manifested into anger, sadness, fear, and confusion,” Johnson said. “Many throughout the country are left to consider at this moment after watching the horrific footage of George Floyd: When is enough, enough?”

Speaking in a televised interview, New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker said that there continues to be a high number of Black people being killed by police with little accountability.

“We need to get justice in this case,” he said. “We also need a more concerted effort in American to recognize that we have a serious problem, serious challenges with police accountability and we need to take action.” 

State Senator and Legislative Black Caucus Chair Ron Rice, who is a former Newark police officer, said in a published interview that the Minniapolis officer who killed Floyd, Derek Chauvin, deserves the harshest punishment.     

“I believe he deserves the death penalty, if we’re not missing something,”Rice said. “It’s people like him who police get stereotyped. The thing that bothers me – if i saw what I saw, I’d have intervened – was that while he had his knee on his head, he had his hand in his pocket like he was relaxing, like it was just a fun time.

In a statement, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said that the recent killings are troubling but assured citizens that he has positive relationships with the community in his county. He’s urging anyone who believes they are victimized by law enforcement to contact his office.

“So much of law enforcement’s relationship with the community is built upon trust. We trust the members of our community to follow the law and cooperate with our efforts to enforce it; our community has the right to trust that they will be treated fairly and justly by the officers who serve them,” Coffina said. “Here in Burlington County, the law enforcement community is fortunate to have developed a positive relationship with our residents. Our police officers routinely conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and respect for the members of the communities they serve.”


In  a recent op-ed, Paterson Assemblymember Benjie Wimberly said major factor including police brutality, mass incarnation and various type of discrimination is slowing killing the Black community. He said all of the officers involved in Floyd’s killing are guilty.

“There’s no way to justify it,” Wimberly said. “How do you justify it? [Eight] minutes. All those guys are damn guilty. The other officers who stood there and did nothing – for [eight] minutes – are guilty as hell, too. These were trained officers?”

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman said that the recent killings Floyd, Taylor and Arbery send a clear message to Black Americans that they are not safe.

“We are not safe when we go for runs, like Ahmaud Arberry. We are not safe when we are in our own homes, like Breonna Taylor,” she said. “We are not safe in a world that is willing to threaten a false police report against us, because we are rarely safe in the presence of police. Over the past few years, dozens of stories have been told, dozens of videos have been watched, dozens of names have been listed, and even then, the true scope of the violence, discrimination, bias and dehumanization Black people endure daily can’t be visualized."

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