SOMERVILLE, NJ - An unidentified teenager riding a bicycle stole a Black Lives Mater flag that had been planted on the lawn of the Historic Somerset County Courthouse Sunday afternoon as part of a planned demonstration organized by local Black Lives Matter activists.
He rode off telling surprised witnesses, ":I Captured Their Flag."
He pedaled his bicycle on the sidewalk down East Main Street and turned on to South Bridge Street cradling the flag and flagpole between his body and his left arm.
Two Somerset County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a call from Mayor Dennis Sullivan, who was one of several witnesses to provide a description of the cyclist. He was described as being a white teenager with short hair, wearing dark shorts and a sleeveless gray t-shirt riding a dark-colored mountain bike.
Otherwise, it was an uneventful, peaceful gathering of 100-150 people, smaller than crowds in previous weeks. There were speeches urging those present to maintain vigilance and continue their demands for social justice and police reform. The group took their protest down Main Street, following the pattern of previous demonstrations and returned to the courthouse to continue their rally. Sunday's event was also held to recognize Pride Month.
Sunday's demonstration was the ninth to be held at the courthouse since June 5th,all stemming from the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was taken into police custody May 25 on suspicion of passing counterfeit money. He was handcuffed and detained by police on the ground beside a police vehicle while a white police officer kneeled on his neck. A bystander recorded the incident on an IPhone.
Floyd begged "I Can't Breathe" through the ordeal and eventually fell silent. He was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Two autopsies determined he had suffocated. Four police officers were fired the next day. One faces Second degree murder charges, the other three face aiding and abetting charges.
The incident is what led to the demonstrations in Somerville and nationwide, where millions of protestors have demanded social justice and police oversight and legislation to address other grievances.
On Saturday, there was another event in support of Black Lives Matter at the courthouse.
"Create Change: A Peaceful Protest Through the Arts" was staged on the steps of the courthouse beginning at 1 p.m.
Jamie DelRocco, the promoter, is the owner of Stage Stars Productions and described the event::
"This is not a “performance” or an open mic type setting - this is an expression through the arts. It’s about the feelings of the artists involved and having a safe space to share those feelings through their art form, which is why we chose to have the courthouse as the backdrop rather than bring in a stage and not have anything else visually to draw away from the art forms." she said.
"We don’t want to take away from the words and the statements being made. The need for artistic expression and creating social change through the arts is in the forefront, which is what Stage Stars Productions is all about," DelRocco added. "Our goal is to enlighten, entertain and empower."
A poster promoting the event reads :"Stand Together with Black Artists in the Fight Against Systemic Racism."
There were vocal performances, some a cappella, others with backing tracks, some musicians and spoken word artists and dancers from all different backgrounds, from hip hop and lyrical to ballet.