CLARK, NJ - Protestors converged on Clark Saturday afternoon for the second time in three days. Clark Police provided traffic control and an escort as participants left Rahway and marched up Westfield Avenue to gather at the town's Municipal Building.
Hanif Denny, one of the organizers said the event was a grass roots effort launched by Clark’s neighbors in Rahway. “Clark has a reputation for being racist and we want our neighbors to know it is time to address it,” said Denny. “Clark doesn’t have to be, it’s time for a change.”
When asked what change would look like in his vision, Denny had a definitive idea. “Diversity in housing and businesses in Clark, and non-discriminatory traffic stops,” he said. “More activities for cross-cultural events between the towns, where Clark invites us (Rahway) and we invite them. Most towns like ours won’t invite Clark because of their reputation.”
Protestors one after the other took the microphone and shared stories or made pleas to the crowd of participants and to Clark officials on hand at the event. Speakers were not shy about hiding their experiences and opinions about Clark and some aimed very direct and pointed questions at Mayor Bonaccorso.
One woman directed her story about her first experiences in Clark to the mayor. In her address she said, "Racism is systemic in our country and somehow it is still flowing in your town..."
Another pointed out what she saw as missing from town officials at the rally:
One female in the crowd encouraged others to be the voice to initiate change:
The mayor also took to the microphone and addressed the crowd, but not before being criticized repeatedly by the crowd for standing silently by throughout the event and not addressing the crowd or responding to their statements and questions.
Some protestors accused him of smirking, shaking his head and smiling, which Bonaccorso quickly repudiated before sharing his vision of Clark today. A town where people of color were welcome, and should feel safe to enjoy as he does Rahway.
In the end, Bonaccorso said it was important to him that their voices were heard and to share a dialogue.
Rahway Mayor Giacobbe was also on hand and also spoke about the rallies as being the first step and dialogue being the next. He said he would be meeting with some of the event organizers, community leader and police in his town to start the conversations. He apologized that due to social distancing regulations he couldn’t make it an even bigger crowd just yet.
Along with Denny, the following helped organize the grassroots event, Courtney Anderson, Kahieem Perkins, Alexandria (Alexi-Rose) and Imani McKevley.