FLEMINGTON, NJ - “It’s fair to say I’m jaded with the American system I have inherited as an American citizen in this country, as long as I can hear nothing from the Flemington Police Department as to the actions of the Minneapolis police, that tells me by their silence, they condone what has happened,” said Troy Powell, a 2019 graduate of Hunterdon Central and currently a freshman chemistry and physics major at Harvard, during a peaceful protest Sunday afternoon.
That statement summarized the passionate feelings of the crowd of about 100 at the peaceful protest held Sunday at the borough park on Court Street, behind the Historic Courthouse in Flemington. The protest was organized at the very last minute by three people who would only identify themselves as ‘James, Hailey and Jane,” with their COVID19 pandemic masks hiding their identities.
The event was organized anonymously with an email that was to be shared only with “trustworthy anti-fascist friends,” with an additional request to “please do not post on social media.” Although such gatherings are protected by the First Amendment, there is the requirement of obtaining a permit from Hunterdon County, since the county is the governmental entity that owns and maintains the Flemington Borough Park.
According to Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver in a post on the Borough of Flemington Facebook page, “This event has not been issued a permit and the leadership behind it is unknown.”
Driver went on to warn that attendees “who participate do so at their own risk” because “no permit has been issued, there is no insurance coverage in place.”
One of the organizers, James, spoke in front of the gazebo in borough park.
“It was time to gather with politically like minded people to protest the brutal killing that happened last weekend in Minneapolis and to confirm that ‘Black Lives Matter,'" he said.
Unlike other towns in New Jersey, the protest in Flemington’s borough park was very peaceful. In Atlantic City Saturday night, there was looting and the windows of Tangier Outlets were broken as a citywide curfew was enacted.
Another organizer, who was identified only as “Hailey,” compared the current racial environment with the racist treatment of Germans after World War One that led to the scapegoating of Bruno Hauptmann at the Trial of the Century.
“While many immigrant communities have been fully assimilated into American culture, and are no longer seen as ‘the other,’ African-Americans are still subject to the same brutish and animalistic treatment they have received at the hands of the government since the end of the Civil War,” she said.
After the gathering in borough park, the group marched to the steps of the historic courthouse with chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.” Participants were invited to show their support by kneeling for nine minutes and 42 seconds to memorialize the amount of time that Officer Dereck Chauvin held his knee on the back of George Floyd.
“I love Flemington, but as long as Flemington is not willing to guarantee my safety, as its citizen, I can no longer say that I openly love Flemington,” said Powell, who attended with his dad, Bradd Powell.