Over the last week the Newark Black Lives Matter network has marched in protest to the police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, and over 309 people have been arrested in different states. Against this backdrop Newark’s protest today was set up by People’s Organization for Progress (POP). It was a “March and rally to protest the murders” of Sterling and Castile by police and the murder of New Jerseyans by police: Abdul Kamal, Jerome Reod, Kashad Ashford and the police shooting of Radazz Hearns.” They started their march at the statue of Rev. Martin Luther King near Springfield Ave. and then walked downtown to the Federal Building on Broad Street. Marching along the busy streets during the afternoon rush hour provides lots of exposure to the community, and there were POP signs along the route with people cheering them.
The scene as the activists gather and prepare to march. Signs: “Stop the killing. Stop there violence. Unity now.” “Justice for Alton Sterling.” “Justice for Philando Castile.” Lots of press. People handing out flyers for the annual commemoration tomorrow of the 1967 Newark Rebellion. ACLU contingent. People handing out information on Newark’s new Civilian Complaint Review Board. Drummers in the background. County and Newark police to escort the protestors. Larry Hamm, POP Chairman and long-time Newark activist, leading warm-up chants before the march.
Ahmeen Burroughs, South Ward Newark with three tours in Iraq: “Things have not changed. We are being dehumanized. Police harass us for no reason and are not being charged for their crimes. I have a five month old son. I want the best for him.”
Lawrence Hamm says that in the past two years the police have been more cooperative, as opposed to the hostile atmosphere under former Police Chief McCarthy. After many complaints Newark Police Department is now operating under a consent decree with the U. S. Justice Department. POP had earlier set up meetings between justice officials and the community. Peter Harvey, former N. J. Attorney General, was just appointed as the federal monitor. Hamm says the Justice Department has investigated several police shootings but has not yet revealed the results.
Pamela Muhammad works in Newark in the Juvenilr justice system: “I have a son and nephews who have become victims of police officers. Some kids don’t get a fair trial just because of their color. Mayor Baraka is doing a great job, but we must do more.”
Mr. Hamm is looking forward to the new Civilian Review Board which is not yet operational because the police union is contesting it in court. Its seven members will be exclusively from the community and include a POP representative. The board can investigate and make recommendations, but final action (or inaction) will be the decision of the new Acting Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose.
Danita Hennante, South Ward Newark: “We are fed up with police brutality against men. We have a Black President and we are still getting killed.”
As Hamm points out people in Newark are very concerned about crime, and those affected are most concerned with police brutality. It appears the number of homicides have decreased but the shootings are up. The reduction of 200 members of the police force under Cory Booker’s administration has made it tougher to address the problems. Nonetheless, Hamm feels there is more community policing, less antagonistic interaction from officers, and more Black and female officers.
Glenn Younger, Jersey City: “I am tired of this, and things are getting worse nationally. The good cops know who the bad cops are and should report them.”
Black Lives Matter of Newark which marched on July 7 says , “In the past few days this country witnessed the recorded murders of two men at the hands of police, the latest victims in this country’s failed policing system. We marched and protested to highlight the urgent need to transform policing in America, to call for justice, transparency and accountability, and to demand that Black Lives Matter.” Unfortunately, the main news coverage of the event rather than dealing with concerns of the activists was relegated to the traffic backups and delays for bus commuters in the area.