Editor's Note: More photos to come in a second article.
FAIR LAWN, NJ - What started as a Monday night rally to honor local police and first responders was quickly met with a smaller protest consisting of individuals with various versions of "BLM" signs, who ended at the municipal building heckling police and those there in support of first responders.
The August 3 rally began at approximately 6:30 p.m. at the Radburn Train Station where approximately 150 individuals with masks gathered, one with a large Trump 2020 flag, and other flags, such as the stars and stripes in blue and black instead of red, white and blue, in support of the police.
At the corner of Pollitt Drive and Fair Lawn Avenue, approximately 25 protesters joined the group, staying across the street. They chanted "Black Lives Matter" and “No Justice, No Peace,” while those rallying for the police chanted "All Lives Matter" and “USA, USA, USA.”
The original intent of the rally, according to organizers John Cosgrove, David Boone, Craig Mont and Kathy Zaccone, was to “show appreciation to [Fair Lawn] Police and First Responders for keeping us safe and protecting our life and property.”
They noted “recent unrest” in the country, and stated “this rally and march is to show that, in Fair Lawn, hate and discrimination have no home.”
Marchers on both sides participated in verbal sparring as they traveled along Fair Lawn Avenue where cars acted as a natural buffer. One car, with a pink-haired female passenger displayed her Black Lives Matter sign close to marchers, causing some contentious back and forth.
One marcher said she was disappointed by the protesters. "We let them have their protests without countering," she said, pointing out she agrees, black lives do matter. “I found nothing wrong with their peaceful rallies. I just don't understand why they have to ruin our positive march. How can you be against our police and first responders?"
In early June, protesters with Black Lives Matter signs rallied along River Road and in front of the municipal building with praise from local officials because the rallies were peaceful by all accounts. The series of protests across the country came about after a white Minnesota police officer subdued George Floyd with his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, likely causing his death on May 25.
Inside sources said some of the protesters, who cursed and heckled police and the rally crowd, were from Brooklyn, but this has not been confirmed.
Once at the municipal building, the original rally set up at the steps where one of the organizers, David Boone, a retired Fair Lawn Police Officer and the department's pastor, led the group in prayer. Another gentleman sang the National Anthem, at which point all protesters and ralliers alike became quiet. The protesters took a knee during the anthem.
On Parmelee Avenue, Bergen County Riot Officers in shielded helmets waited with a line of police vehicles. Upon orders, they marched onto Fair Lawn Avenue into the middle of street, creating a shield for both groups, the ralliers and the protesters.
Fair Lawn uniformed officers were in the mix, as well, helping to quash any possible physical altercations. Protesters and ralliers alike heckled each other.
Meanwhile, with protesters succeeding at distracting the original intent of the rally, one local first responder took notice.
"Why are they looking at them? They're here to honor first responders," she said. "I can turn my back on them and my daughter is in that crowd."
Former Mayor John Cosgrove, another organizer of the event, regularly spoke to the crowd, asking them from start to finish to focus on the point of the rally: police and first responders. "We're all adults here, let's be positive.”