CLARK, NJ – Demonstrations were held at the Clark Commons for several hours on Thursday before more than 400 people marched down Raritan Road with a police escort to Westfield Avenue and finally assembled in front of the Clark Police Department.
Once there, organizers invited Police Chief Matos to address the crowd. “I wish there is something I could say that would take away the pain from that video we all saw….everyone I’ve spoken to in law enforcement is horrified by what they saw,” he said. “That is not how any human being should be treated, there was no empathy shown to that man….we stand with you and we don’t want to see those things either, we will work to do better.”
After chants of “peace, unity and justice,” organizers had the crowd kneel in silence for seven minutes to allow participants to feel how long it took for George Floyd to die at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Jamal, the emcee of the event outside of police headquarters said to the crowd, "Today, we use our voices." He then asked people to use their voices, to tell their stories. Several people in the crowd took to the microphone.
“ I have friends from Elizabeth, New Jersey who were afraid to come here today because they are scared to lose their lives, …everyone is scared because they know what this town is capable of…they know what happens here, enough is enough,” said one woman. “It is time we take a stand and time we do something about it there is no reason people should fear this town, we are all human.”
Another woman who spoke with an ache in her voice as she recalled playing soccer in Clark with her Hillside team and having bananas thrown on the field. She went on to say, “You need to talk to your neighbors, you need to talk to your friends,… because you sitting back right now and being quiet because they don’t want to hear it is not working.”
She continued on to say, “The revolution will not be televised but you will see it … have conversations… say something, why are you all scared? Talk to your friends black and white…tell then to stop posting on social media and not saying anything in real life. “
Other members of the crowd relayed stories of themselves, friends and family being pulled over while driving through Clark. One woman said it was her white privilege that helped her ex-boyfriend when they got pulled over.
“Don’t confuse people protesting with the looters,” said another person, explaining that the actions of some do not speak for all in the crowd. She was met with more chants of “no justice, no peace" and "say his name, George Floyd.”
Organizers of the day's events were less concerned with being noted for who they are as individuals but more about the reason they were there. This was the first protest Sha, (only name given) had ever initiated although she says she has been to about five gatherings so far. A postal worker and college student by day she was really excited about the turn out.
Sha shared that she was a former student at Mother Seton and was familiar with the way things were in Clark and the reputation it had in surrounding communities. It was a social media discussion with another person that was fearful of having a rally in Clark that led Sha to know this was exactly where it should be. “We can’t be afraid,” she said. “Our point of view is, we don’t want this behavior, we want to be equal, we want to let people know we are serious, it’s time, I want everyone to be on the same page.”
One of the other speakers in the crowd, worked hard to get the crowd on the same page in terms of understanding the difficulty people of color race each day. “I appreciate you coming here, but tell your friends, we are tired, we are so tired, I know you can hear the pain in my voice… it’s not safe… I need you to understand that this is real life, this is every day….we don’t get to wake up from this nightmare.”
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