NUTLEY, NJ -- TAPintoTV Executive Producer Brian Brodeur was joined in studio by TAPinto Nutley Publisher, John Lee, who described a recent clash between Nutley For Black Lives demonstrators and local counter protesters that turned ugly and made national news. 

The two spoke from East Main Media Studios’ facility in Little Falls, NJ, which has been recently reconfigured to accommodate safe and socially distant production in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lee set the scene and described what happened prior to the Nutley for Black Lives rally on June 26. A false rumor was spread around town and on social media stating that the demonstrators planned to vandalize a statue of Christopher Columbus that stands near Nutley Town Hall; however, the rumor was false. 

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Upon hearing the rumor, a local organization sent out an email to its members urging them to assemble and protect the statue. “Instead of going to the authorities, it was spread,” Lee explained. However, Nutley for Black Lives said they were not going to destroy the Columbus statue. “They were as shocked as well as everybody else that this supposedly was going to happen,” Lee said.

The Nutley Police issued a statement stating that there were no plans to destroy the statue, and the original organization did later send out an email refuting the rumor and rescinding their call to action, “but by then it was all over social media,” Lee said. 

As a result, “the other side came to the party angry. They came for a fight,” Lee said. Many engaged in name-calling, yelling, screaming insults, and profanity. “A very hostile group,” he added. Fortunately, no violence was reported and no arrests were made.

Lee himself has faced personal attacks and criticism because of his role as a local journalist. “That tends to be a problem that I run into often,” said Lee. “There are people who are against anything that could be construed as negative news, and it’s been that way for a while,” he said. 

Photos and video that Lee captured that day and published on TAPinto Nutley were shared on social media and later made national news due to the incendiary temperature between the two groups. In some ways, Lee explained, the situation in town was a tinderbox waiting to explode, and the stress coming off pandemic lockdowns added to the intensity of the reaction. “All that pent-up rage and anger suddenly comes out on the streets,” Lee said. 

Changing demographics in Nutley could also be a factor. Over the past ten years, Nutley has evolved from a homogenous town where generation after generation stayed to raise their families, into a much more diverse place with an influx of residents hailing from urban areas across New York and New Jersey, from all kinds of backgrounds.

“There’s so much change going on and I think some people are having a hard time with it,” Lee added. 

 

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