BAYONNE, NJ - Protesters continued to call for the resignation of Bayonne Board of Education Trustee Michael Alonso for his posting of what some claim were racist remarks on his personal Facebook page.
In June, Alonso took to the social media platform to ask: “Where will the Bayonne Riot Start? Walmart- QuickChek- Shoprite?” in reference, he said, to seeing stores boarding up their windows ahead of several planned Black Lives Matters demonstrations, and wondering if Bayonne would suffer the same social unrest as other cities in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Mayor Jimmy Davis, a 28-year veteran of the Bayonne Police Department, said the killing of George Floyd “should have never happened” and that he felt “anger and confusion” after viewing the video of the incident.
“We’re going to be out here protesting before this meeting and before every meeting until he’s gone,” Shawanda Jacobs, a parent and activist who was among the protesters outside Bayonne High School before the body’s Monday meeting, said.
Although only a handful of protestors rallied outside, the board of education has been inundated with letters and other communications from parents and others also calling for Alonso to step down. Some parents, including several of the protestors, have signed a petition demanding Alonso’s resignation.
Protestors also noted that a second post by Alonso showed an altered “Black Lives Matter Sign” to “Black Votes Matter” – reflecting a growing sentiment among some Republicans that Democrats may be supporting the Black Lives Matter movement only to get their votes in November.
Unable to remove him, The Board of Education also passed a resolution, 7-0, aimed at Alonso that clarified that the comments were his alone and not reflective of the Bayonne Board of Education, while also decrying and rebuking “racism, intolerance, and insensitivity” of any kind.
Ortavia Jackson, who works as a mentor for kids and is a partner in a children’s center called Joy Full Zone, said she recently learned that this was not the first incident in which Alonso has been accused of making inappropriate racial remarks. “Even if he wasn’t on the Board of Education, this would be a big deal,” Jacobs said.
Some local officials have been concerned about people becoming agitated over the tenor of Alonso’s posts with one saying “his posts set a bad example.”
“You don’t need to stoke the flames when people are already angry.”
More than a dozen police officers on bicycles patrolled the high school campus grounds, while patrol cars were parked on the street within a half block of the protest.
Bayonne was host to a peaceful gathering at Steven Gregg County Park on June 7, with only a small contingent confronting police afterwards in front of City Hall. A second march was planned for the following week, but fizzled out, partly because of a conflict between two Black Lives Matter groups – one organized by local leaders, another from out of town.
Even Republicans in Bayonne and the county have called for Alonso to step down, although he has been at odds with these party members for years, accusing them of working to close with the Democrats, pointing to what he saw as behind the scenes efforts to get Neil Carroll III, a Democrat, elected in a 2019 special council election.
Alonso has refused to resign, saying he is running for reelection in November, a decision that prompted some protestors to say they will work to defeat him.
“This is political,” Alonso said, claiming the post was not racist but a legitimate observation of the political dynamic.
“I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m definitely not resigning,” he said. “People have been asking me to resign from the day I took office.”
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