FLEMINGTON, NJ - A call to action by Karen Buys, a member of the Hunterdon County Anti-Racism Coalition (HCARC), did not succeed in bringing any comments to the Flemington Council’s online meeting.
An email sent hours before the meeting encouraged people to share, “exact instances of discrimination and racism in the Borough.” Buyers explained comments didn’t need to be limited to police interactions, but could include experiences while seeking housing or shopping that resulted in direct acts of race, ethnic, religious or sexuality discrimination.
HCARC describes itself as “a collaborative anti-racism action group whose primary purpose is to translate education into positive action against discrimination at the individual, institutional and cultural levels.
At the high point, there were a total of 22 people online for the meeting, however no one spoke or offered any comment about discrimination in Flemington during the two public comment sessions.
Earlier this month, Mayor Betsy Driver unilaterally had the blue line that was painted down Main Street four years ago in support of the police removed just prior to a planned Black Lives Matter protest. She said she made the decision based on hearing from many residents who said the blue line made them feel “unwelcome.”
Two days later, a woman came out and repainted a small portion of the blue line. The blue line was again removed and Driver vowed to prosecute the woman if she was found, with the police treating it as a case of vandalism.
Then, a resident began circulating a petition online to have the blue line repainted. It already has almost 2,000 signatures.
And even though at the moment the blue line is gone, the unrest in the small historic town is still there under the surface.
During her report at the outset of the meeting Driver took a stand.
“I myself made it very clear I’m a supporter of BLM,” she said.
The BLM protest in early June drew about 1,800 people, including the mayor.
Two weeks later, a gathering in support of police locally and across the country brought out over 300 people, but not the mayor, who said she had promised one of her children that she would limit her exposure out in public.
Now word is out that another protest is being planned for this weekend, although a permit has not been requested yet. This gathering is called BLM Flemington Protest and Day of Action for accountability of police departments and local government.
Since many Main Street retailers reopened this week as a part of New Jersey’s Stage 2 plan during the pandemic, there is concern that another large gathering could impede the flow of business.
The mayor said that if the protest goes forward, she would like to see it moved elsewhere, possibly the justice center in consideration of local businesses.
“You don’t elect a lesbian in her mid-fifties and not expect her to be concerned about social justice,” said Driver. “But I have to make sure that our businesses can reopen. They’ve been closed for three months, and they need that space.”