As his name echoed out from a loudspeaker, protesters instantly rose to their feet at Berry Lane in Jersey City and began chanting in unison, sending the message that police brutality would continue to be met with passionate opposition in this country.
“We are here today in solidarity with Minneapolis for George Floyd, and this will serve as a follow up to the police brutality that occurred right here in Jersey City,” said Reverend Keion Jackson, Director of Education for Black Men United.
George Floyd lost his life last week after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his throat for an extended period of time during an arrest. Earlier this month, Jersey City Police Officers were scrutinized following an incident on Bostwick Avenue involving a significant display of force.
“Our goal today is to build with the community,” said Jackson. “It’s not to incite violence, it’s not to be seen as a threat, but to be seen as a community—to build bridges and knock down certain walls.”
In what was a grassroots, locally organized event, protestors collaborated with City officials to ensure a safe marching route from Berry Lane, up Bramhall Avenue to Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., before turning to deliver speeches at the steps of the Greenville Jersey City Police Precinct.
On hand for the march were Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea.
“This is the first large protest in Jersey City since George Floyd,” said Fulop, “and I think that the points and the asks here are very reasonable on the side of the justice conversation. It’s important that they know that we are listening to them and we see them. We want to work with them to see where we can improve how we work as one City, together.”
Among those “asks” from organizers is the development of a civilian review board that can independently investigate instances of alleged police misconduct. Also, mandatory racial sensitivity training that is open to public scrutiny.
At Berry Lane Park and along the marching path, the police presence was noticeable, while a wall of officers stood behind a barricade where the crowd gathered in front of the precinct.
“It’s the United States, they have a right to protest,” said Shea. “We’re here to help them. We’re here to ensure they can do their protest safely and all the participants are safe while they exercise their right.”
Amid shouts of “No Justice, No Peace,” officers opened the barricade to allow organizers a stage from which they could deliver their message. Those organizers made calls for tangible community engagement from Jersey City residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The incident on Bostwick Avenue, just blocks from the Greenville Precinct, was also openly addressed. Organizers called on officers to do the right thing, and put their duty to the community before their badge in situations where force is being disproportionately applied.
Nevertheless, the goal of peaceful and impactful protest was achieved on Monday afternoon. The question now is if it can be maintained. As of press time there were no reports of any incidents stemming from the march, which continued back along the route and concluded with a round of short speeches at Berry Lane Park.
Today’s protests were the first of several scheduled for the area—including one at Hoboken’s Maxwell Park on Friday, and several more for Jersey City.