Somerset County News

Community for Unity Rally in Somerville Hopes to Inspire Tolerance

104999f14beb2d83789a_sompixcommunityforunitylogo.jpg
104999f14beb2d83789a_sompixcommunityforunitylogo.jpg

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Jews and Muslims, Christians and Buddhists, Republicans and Democrats, men, women, whites, blacks, and people of multiple ethnicities will join together Monday night, Aug. 28 at the historic Somerset County Courthouse to decry hatred, prejudice and bigotry and deliver a message of tolerance and respect for one another on the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Mayor Brian Gallagher and Steve Peter, Borough Council president; Rev. Paul Janssen of the United Reformed Church, 100 W. Main St., along with a dozen or more lawmakers, clergy and activists, will speak at the rally.

Organizers of the "Community for Unity Rally: A Call To Action" invite people to begin gathering on the courthouse lawn, 20 E. Main St., at 5:30 p.m. A 5-minute excerpt of the “I Have a Dream” speech will be shown at 5:55 p.m., with speakers scheduled to deliver their remarks at 6 p.m.

Sign Up for E-News

“I’ll talk about the amazing diversity that we have here in New Jersey; it’s what makes us such a strong state,” said state Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th. “There’s been so much divisiveness and hostility. It is beholden on us as Americans to rise above the hatred and take care of our neighbors – that’s what we do in New Jersey,” he added.

“The hope is that beyond this gathering that people go out and spread a message of acceptance and good will,” Zwicker said.

Monday’s rally is an outgrowth of an impromptu gathering of 75 people at the Unitarian Universalist Church on E. Cliff Street on Aug. 16, according to one of the organizers, Donna Volpe, who is the founder of the Somerville chapter of Hate Has No Home Here.

She and several others, angered by the violence and aftermath of the clashes in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month involving right-wing extremists felt the need to "do something," Volpe explained. Many who gathered for that rally expressed the need to further express their outrage and rejection of the extremists' agenda, prompting Volpe to reach out to friends of a similar mind.

“In the wake of the Charlottesville incident, I’ve heard so many people say ‘That’s not us;” ‘That’s not my town;’ “That’s not America.’ Unfortunately, it is,” Peter said.

“Yeah, there’s a problem, and we need to address that so that Somerville and Somerset County don’t get to that point,” he added.

Volpe, along with Kristen Mehrbach, Andrea Stathatos, Michelle Edgar, Karen Gaffney and Jen Kitchen, have been busy the past 10 days planning the rally.

Their goal is to help facilitate understanding, unity and cooperation in the community through heightened awareness and getting people engaged, according to Mehrbach.

The Somerset County Diversity Cultural Coalition is sponsor of the event. Tulsi Maharjan, executive director, will speak at the rally.

Other speakers include State Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-16; Joe Forte, secretary of the NJ LGBT Democratic Caucus Victory Fund Campaign Board; M. Ali Chaudry, president, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and co-founder, NJ Interfaith Coalition; Rabbi Dan Selsberg, Temple Sholom; Ron Isaacs, Rabbi Emeritus.Temple Sholom; Mark Williams, member AACT-NOW; Karen Gaffney, professor of English, Raritan Valley Community College and author of the soon-to-be-released book, "Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox;" Carina Gonzalez, Outreach Librarian and professor at RVCC and Aldo Martinez, immigration attorney.

Each of the speakers is limited to 3 minutes, according to Volpe; a separate “candidates’ corner’’ for those seeking elected office in November will permit those office seekers an opportunity to interact with the crowd.

Information tables for the various organizations expected will be available; the organizers will also have markers available for those interested to sign their sentiments on a “Community for Unity” banner that they hope will be displayed in a public place in Somerville at a later date, according to Volpe.

The women emphasize that their newly-formed grass roots organization is non-partisan and not affiliated with any political organizations. Volpe's Hate Has No Home Here, and the Central Jersey Community Coalition are also playing a part in the rally.

"We invite you to join us in promoting UNITY in our community and in all communities of conscience," is their message on the website.

Civil rights activist Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. delivered his defining "I Have a Dream" speech 54 years ago on Aug. 28 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom;. He called for an end to racism in the United States and called for civil and economic rights. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the speech was a defining moment for the Civil Rights movement.

Borrowing from the theme of King's speech, Community for Unity offers the following message on its Facebook page:

"We Have a Dream---that all human beings, of all colors, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, nationalities, abilities, races, sexual orientations, religions, and economic backgrounds are treated EQUALLY under the law and are accepted as EQUAL in the hearts and minds of citizens here and everywhere.

"We Have a Dream---that within our lifetimes, rallies will not need to be held in order to promote the ideas of compassion, conscience, and connectedness.

"We Have a Dream---that all of us actively and vociferously reject the scourge of racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry whenever and wherever we witness it. Furthermore, we commit to confronting white supremacist ideology in our communities, institutions, and personal lives.

"This is our dream, and this is the reality we must work together to create."

Further information is available online at facebook.com/communityforunitynj/ 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Franklin Township

Environmental Victory – Transco Withdraws NESE Pipeline Application to DEP

June 21, 2018

In a small victory for the environment, Transco withdraws DEP’s application for their compressor station in Franklin Twp. on June 14, 2018 for approval under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act rules & Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules. Transco also withdrew DEP’s application for their pipeline on the Old Bridge Raritan bay for approval under Coastal Wetlands ...

Suspect in Union Carjacking Takes Own Life in Hillside

June 23, 2018

UNION, NJ – A Baltimore man ended up taking his own life in the Hillside Police Department after he was arrested for a suspected attempted carjacking in Union Friday afternoon.

The Maryland man, Jermaine Covington, 41, was arrested and used an officer’s service weapon to take his life, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Saturday.

Covington left the scene ...

'Luggage Factory' Could Be Hunterdon's First Pot Shop

RARITAN TWP., NJ – A question about opening a marijuana dispensary on Route 202-31 has prompted officials here to consider whether they want such businesses in the township.

An informal inquiry was made to the township’s Planning and Zoning Department about locating such a business in the former Luggage Factory building, Mayor Mike Mangin said at Tuesday’s Township Committee ...

Edison Police Seek Help Finding Missing 14-Year-Old

EDISON, NJ - A 14-year-old Edison girl who ran away from home on May 3 has yet to be found and police are asking anyone with information about her to come forward.

Edison detectives are leading a statewide search for the girl, Jalaysia Staplar-Evans. They believe she could be staying with friends or acquaintances in Newark or the Essex County area, said Edison Police Lt. Robert ...

Police Issue Alert for Missing New Brunswick Girl (FOUND)

Update: According to New Brunswick Police Department Capt. JT Miller, Tomesell has been located.  

NEW BRUNSWICK - Police today issued a plea for the public’s help in finding a missing 13-year-old girl.

Payton Tomesell, was last seen on Wednesday at 18 Abeel St., authorities said.

The girl suffers from anxiety and depression, and is taking medication, police ...

Bridgewater Police: Avoid Mall for Ongoing Police Investigation

UPDATE: According to a Nixle alert from the Bridgewater Township Police Department at 9 p.m., the investigation at the mall has been completed, and the mall will be resuming normal business operations.

Police emphasized that there is no immediate threat to the public and no injuries were reported.

Keep checking back for more information.

Related article: Bridgewater Mall Shut Down ...

Students Lead ‘Die-In’ at Congressman Lance’s Westfield Office; Summit Boy Arrested

WESTFIELD, NJ — Seventeen-year-old Summit High School student Ben Schachter was taken away in handcuffs Tuesday during a gun safety “die-in” protest led by local high school students at Congressman Leonard Lance's Westfield office. Lance was not present at the office at the time.

Read: Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman Talks Gun Violence, School Safety, ...

Suspect in Union Carjacking Takes Own Life in Hillside

June 23, 2018

UNION, NJ – A Baltimore man ended up taking his own life in the Hillside Police Department after he was arrested for a suspected attempted carjacking in Union Friday afternoon.

The Maryland man, Jermaine Covington, 41, was arrested and used an officer’s service weapon to take his life, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Saturday.

Covington left the scene ...

'Luggage Factory' Could Be Hunterdon's First Pot Shop

RARITAN TWP., NJ – A question about opening a marijuana dispensary on Route 202-31 has prompted officials here to consider whether they want such businesses in the township.

An informal inquiry was made to the township’s Planning and Zoning Department about locating such a business in the former Luggage Factory building, Mayor Mike Mangin said at Tuesday’s Township Committee ...

Edison Police Seek Help Finding Missing 14-Year-Old

EDISON, NJ - A 14-year-old Edison girl who ran away from home on May 3 has yet to be found and police are asking anyone with information about her to come forward.

Edison detectives are leading a statewide search for the girl, Jalaysia Staplar-Evans. They believe she could be staying with friends or acquaintances in Newark or the Essex County area, said Edison Police Lt. Robert ...

Hillsborough: Rain or Shine the Show Goes on at Sourland Music Festival

June 22, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The music always plays on at the Sourland Music Festival - rain or shine.

There is a chance of rain in Saturday's forecast, but the show will go on.

Organizers suggest Consider bringing a pop-up, umbrellas and towels with your beach chair and refillable water bottle. Rain did not dampen the spirits of 2017 Sourland Music Fest guests - it provided unplanned ...

Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity Opening ReStore in Manville

MANVILLE, NJ - Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity is opening a Habitat ReStore in the Marketplace at Manville, next to Walmart on North Main Street in Manville, this fall.

At the store, RVHFH will pick up gently used furniture and goods from Somerset and Hunterdon county residents, and give them a second life at the store's grand opening.

To schedule a time for RVHFH to pick ...

Summer Camp Programs for Children and Teens Announced By Environmental Education Center

BERNARDS TWP., NJ – Each summer, the Environmental Education Center (EEC) in Basking Ridge holds programs that let children and teens explore nature for summer activities that both entertaining and an opportunity to learn about the environment.

The programs are organized and led by the EEC's staff of naturalists.

The EEC is a Somerset County facility located at 190 Lord ...

Hillsborough: Rain or Shine the Show Goes on at Sourland Music Festival

June 22, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The music always plays on at the Sourland Music Festival - rain or shine.

There is a chance of rain in Saturday's forecast, but the show will go on.

Organizers suggest Consider bringing a pop-up, umbrellas and towels with your beach chair and refillable water bottle. Rain did not dampen the spirits of 2017 Sourland Music Fest guests - it provided unplanned ...

Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity Opening ReStore in Manville

MANVILLE, NJ - Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity is opening a Habitat ReStore in the Marketplace at Manville, next to Walmart on North Main Street in Manville, this fall.

At the store, RVHFH will pick up gently used furniture and goods from Somerset and Hunterdon county residents, and give them a second life at the store's grand opening.

To schedule a time for RVHFH to pick ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Episode 17

On this week’s AtlantiCast, it’s National Men’s Health Month, so check out important health tips for you or the men in your life, learn about groundbreaking research into breast cancer treatment that could mean an end to chemotherapy for some patients, meet a local sports hero who’s living his baseball dreams thanks to Goryeb Children’s Hospital and much ...