CLARK, NJ - When Saturday’s march ended in the plaza in front of Clark’s Municipal Building, a microphone was shared for over an hour by various participants. The voice and tone of each speaker varied, some asked questions designed to make listeners think, others shared their experiences of racism in Clark, there were those shouting demands for change and some name-calling and criticizing the mayor and members of the police and elected town officials.
The situation was filled with tension, frustration, and uncertainty for both sides. Protestors accused the mayor of not taking them seriously, as he listened to members of the group speak and at the same time sustaining personal insults and more directed at him from the crowd. The mayor struggled to get his points across at times as protestors shouted him down.
Mayor Bonaccorso agreed to speak with TAPinto Clark after Saturday’s march and rally. He shared his frustration with the outcome. He said he hoped to speak in an open way with organizers and participants. Instead, he said the anger and animosity of the crowd made it impossible to talk.
“I am disappointed, I thought there would be more discussion, instead their agenda was hatred toward me, the police and Clark, starting from the first person that spoke,” he said. “It did not seem they were there for productive communication.”
In terms of future opportunities to dialogue with event organizers, Bonaccorso said he would gladly continue a dialogue but not in a protest forum. “I’d be happy to sit down and meet with 2-4 representatives of the Rahway community and listen and talk,” he said. “I am not interested in meeting at a protest march.”
On Wednesday afternoon Bonaccorso released a statement to the community clarifying some comments he made at Saturday's rally. He also affirmed his statement from the rally that it takes more than a single conversation to fix things. Finally, he reflected on having future opportunities to continue a dialogue. The mayor's entire statement is here...
During the assembly that took place last Saturday at Clark Town hall, I had an opportunity to speak to the crowd. As a public official, I felt that it was my duty to speak to all of those present in hopes of fostering an atmosphere of goodwill and progress between the citizens of Rahway and Clark. I truly meant it when I told everyone in attendance, "If I didn't care. I wouldn't be here."
My goal when I spoke was to reiterate and affirm that we want Clark Township to be a place where everyone feels welcome. Looking back on what I said and seeing some of the public reaction to it, I see that I may have fallen short of that goal and I would like to clarify my answer to a question that was posed.
An attendee asked me, "Are you pro black?" The answer is of course, and unequivocally, yes. I also truly believe that Black Lives Matter. The black members of the Clark Community, those who live here, those who work here, those who are visiting and even those who are just passing through are all an integral part of what makes Clark such a great place.
I pride myself on the fact that I never judge someone based on their skin color; but, only on who they are as a person and how they treat others. I recognize that my remarks may not have accurately represented how I feel. Although I've been Mayor for a long time, I am still learning.
I said it on Saturday, and I will say it again, one conversation never fixed anything. Mayor Giacobbe also reiterated this when he told those present that if we don't have a conversation after this event, nothing will change.
So, with that in mind, let's have one. The best place to catch me is in my office, where the door is always open. I look forward to seeing you and forging an even better relationship between our two great communities.
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