FLEMINGTON, NJ - If indeed "the third times the charm," the Black Lives Matter protest held Saturday was unique in the way it ended – in a torrential rainstorm.
For more than 90 minutes, the crowd of about 200 at the historic courthouse in Flemington heard several speakers before the sky opened up with gusty wind and pelting rain showers.
While the crowd was somewhat smaller than in weeks passed, the passion of attendees could still be felt in their signs, placards and T-shirts. Themes that have become standard at similar rallies around the country like ‘Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe,” were joined by those who had messages like “Use Your Privilege to End Your Privilege” and “White Silence is Violence.”
Flemington police were on hand to ensure security, as was Hunterdon County Sheriff Fred Brown for a brief time as the rally got started. In anticipation of possible chaos, a line of barriers were placed between Main Street and the Historic Courthouse.
“It’s pretty clear this needs to be a bottom-up very localized movement, as opposed to legislation,” said organizer, and Flemington resident, Hailey Rounsaville.
She organized the protest, her second in a month, despite receiving an intimidating letter at her home and threats on social media.
A post on Facebook warned her, “So this is the mentally challenged lady that was organizing the anti police rally … someone needs to … punch this lady.” A letter she received threatened her with,” When your demonstration protest turns violent and it will, I hope you are sort out and get the … beat out of you.”
Rounsaville said she was “forced to” contact the police, and “that was a very essential part of what this person was trying to do is make me look like a hypocrite because they think that these protests are anti-police. They’re not.”
Despite the threats on social media, the gathering was peaceful once again. Many drivers passed by honking their support or shouting “Black Lives Matter.”
Only one driver in a utility truck flipped a finger at the crowd.
The turnout was lighter than the one held two weeks ago, when more than 1,500 protesters marched from the Justice Center on Park Avenue to the Historic Courthouse on Main Street. However, the anger of those present had not diminished.
Fatima Mughal, a third grade teacher and activist, was warmly welcomed by the crowd. Wearing a shirt that read, "Silence is Betrayal," she said, “We have to learn our true histories, so we can move forward together.”
Bhakti Curtis, who grew up in Flemington, spoke to the crowd about his experiences with racism in the second grade and through high school.
“There is a right way to deal with [racism] and a wrong way to deal with it," he said. "When I was younger, I chose the wrong way to deal with it.”
In his brief time in front of the crowd, Curtis challenged Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver and Police Chief Jerry Rotella to “release the last four years of police stops” so that “we can see if the police are racial profiling.” To that suggestion, Curtis received a loud applause from the crowd.
“We’re trying to create a more equitable society, a more holistic view on reducing crime before it happens,” said Rounsaville, describing the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Participants in the peaceful protest were invited to leave cans of food to be donated to the Flemington Area Food Pantry.