Last Saturday, almost 100 participants attended a hastily put together peaceful protest in Flemington’s Borough Park in support of those African-Americans, who like George Floyd, lost their lives to police brutality.
However, today an estimated crowd of 1500 COVID19 masked supporters marched from the Justice Center on Park Avenue to Main Street in front of the Historic Courthouse - once again with their shouts of “No Justice, No Peace,”, “Hands up, don’t shoot”, and “Black Lives Matter.”
Leading the march were Congressman Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver, and Flemington Police Chief Jerry Rotella. This event was put together as a collaboration between several of the same Hunterdon Central High School students who organized the May 30th rally, Black Lives Matter Hunterdon, and the County Democratic Party.
The invite posted on social media indicated that the event was “not a political issue”, and that “enough citizens have reached out to express their frustration.” Upon its arrival at Main Street, the mostly young gathering filled the closed to traffic street from just beyond the Police Station at one end to beyond the Post Office at the other.
Waiting to greet the peaceful procession was a Main Street with the ‘blue line’ removed, and the ‘Black Lives Matter' sign back in the window of 90 Main Street, home of the creative space Flemington DIY. Both of these symbols had proven very controversial several years back in 2016.
“Flemington was honored to host the approximately 1500 peaceful protestors. Their message was loud and clear: black lives matter and we need to recognize this,” noted Mayor Driver.
Hand-painted signs were more varied than ones seen before at other protests in the County - coming in many shapes and sizes, with distinctive messages:
- From a combat veteran in full uniform: “I swore an OATH to defend the people, so I STAND with the people.”
- Two young Christian students held a sign that bore the message, “Racism = Sin. Repent. Matthew 4:17. Black Lives Matter.”
- Five young Hunterdon Central student organizers of the event wore shirts with George Floyd’s photo on one side, and “Black Lives Matter” on the other.
- One young boy under five years of age stood with his parents with a placard on a stick that read, “I want black people to stop dying.”
- A face-mask worn by a local leader in the Latina community, Patricia Campos-Medina, provided the message, “Here to Stay! Stand-up - Fight Back”. Campos-Medina shared, “As Americans we all have value. We have people who have fought all their lives….this is a fight against white nationalism in the United States. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We stand together not one day, not one week, but all our lives.”
Congressman Tom Malinowski, who represents Flemington in Washington, D.C. had some choice words to share,”There are people in this country who are trying to divide us. They do not want us to stand united. There are people in this country who want to pit blacks against whites. Who want to pit civilians against police. We do not listen to those people. We do not follow those people...We need leaders who say ‘I may not have caused that problem, but it is my responsibility to solve that problem.’ “
Not all presenters gave speeches: one student-led the crowd a very moving rendition of singer Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”. Another read the Langston Hughes’ classic poem, “Harlem”:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
“The young people who organized today’s event are to be commended. They are our future and they made it obvious that our future is in good hands” added Mayor Driver regarding the peaceful protest and the positive message.
The protest closed with a silent vigil, with all on a knee for eight minutes 42 seconds, the approximate length of time the Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck.