(EAST ORANGE/ORANGE) - The women of the NJ General Assembly Black Women's Caucus are hosting a candlelight vigil and conversation with the community on Facebook Live, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at 6:00 PM. The virtual event is titled, "Lifting Our Kings & Queens." The live stream is in direct response to recent and past unwarranted excessive use of force, resulting in the death of unarmed black men and women.
The recent murders include a 26-year-old EMT and aspiring nurse who was killed in her apartment, shot at least eight times by Louisville police officers who officials have said were executing a drug warrant. According to a lawsuit filed by the family, officers are accused of wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence.
Another includes the tracking and killing of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of an ex-officer and his son, as Ahmad innocently jogged through a South Carolina neighborhood.
Most recently, the murder of George Floyd by an officer who kneeled on George's neck, as he begged for his life, including calling on his mother before his final breaths, while other officers stood around and watched.
The latter two incidents were caught on tape, and have resulted in national protests.
Many of the Assemblywomen have taken to social media to let their stance be known.
Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake, who represents East Orange, Orange, Montclair, and Clifton, has been proactive about this issue in the past:
Upon entering the Assembly in 2018, Timberlake's first bill to become law required an independent investigation if a person dies at the hands of law enforcement. This law, also requires the trial — if there is one — to be held in a different county from where the incident occurred. Sponsors of the bill also included, Annette Quijano of Elizabeth, Benjie Wimberly of Paterson, Angela McKnight of Jersey City, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson of Trenton. The bill passed the Assembly by one vote before making it to the Governor's office for signature.
Also in 2018, NJ Advanced Media released "The Force Report," a 16-month investigation found, “Statewide, a black person was more than three times more likely to face police force than someone who is white. In Millville in South Jersey, black people faced police force at more than six times the rate of whites. In South Orange, it was nearly 10 times. In Lakewood, it was an astronomical 22 times.”
"I support good law enforcement officers who truly protect and serve our community; my legislative record and support for local public safety departments prove that. I do not support officers who do the opposite or who remain silent while witnessing excessive use of force…no one should, and my legislative record proves that too. These two realities can and should exist together in leaders throughout the country," said Timberlake.
Although Timberlake repeatedly stated the law "was not anti-prosecutor or anti-law enforcement, rather an effort to strengthen the relationships the community has with law enforcement while making sure that there is transparency and equity," the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and NJ State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal did not see it that way. They were not in support of the very law they now must uphold after public pressure prevailed and Governor Murphy signed the bill into law.
The following year, the PBA made public they would not endorse Timberlake in her quest for re-election.
When asked about laws she has supported in favor of law enforcement, Timberlake cited, "retirement benefits, affordable access to higher education, and ensuring families receive accidental death benefits if first responders contract and die from COVID-19, to name a few."
Timberlake's bill has been put to the test since its passing. Last Saturday, the most recent investigation began when an unarmed 28-year old black man on the Garden State Parkway was shot and killed in Bass River, NJ.
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