PISCATAWAY, NJ – Chants of ‘Shame’ echoed among the sounds of honking horns as a group of protestors drove past the homes of six Piscataway School Board members to let them know they weren’t happy with the decision to remove Ralph Johnson from the board.
Sunday’s drive-by ‘Justice for Ralph’ protest took supporters past the homes of Board President Shelia Hobson, Kimberly Lane, Nitang Patel, Brenda Smith, Calvin Laughlin, and Jeffrey Fields. They waved signs and honked horns to send their messages of disapproval of the 6-3 vote for removal at the July business meeting.
The procession ended at Green Acres Park with a rally where protestors spoke out in support of Johnson’s impact as a 3-term school board member and his track record of care and concern for others.
Zoe Scotto, a recent Piscataway High School graduate said she organized the drive-by protest and rally because she wanted Ralph to know “the community has his back, and to show the school board members that we think they’re wrong” in removing him.
Scotto said she felt silenced in her role as Senior Student Representative to the Board, often not getting responses to her questions. However, Johnson was always interested in her well-being and took time to hear her concerns.
Juliet Pastras, who will be a senior this fall helped Scotto organize the rally.
“Mr. Johnson represented us in the community. He spoke for us, he represented us,” she said.
“Today, I’m out here rallying for Ralph Johnson because I believe in doing what’s right,” said Matthew “Coach Burger” Fabian who has coached Pop Warner football alongside Johnson. “I don’t understand how we can vote a person off who’s trying to help, and shows that he is here to help. We want answers.”
Johnson, a Lieutenant with the Essex County Sherriff’s Office had been charged with attendance violations for missing the March, April and May business meetings.
Board president, Shelia Hobson said he did not properly notify her that he would have to miss the meetings due to his job requirements, putting him in violation of the bylaws.
Johnson and his attorney addressed the board on Thursday, explaining that he had good cause to miss the meetings because, as an essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, he is not allowed to call out of work, and tried to make alternate arrangements to be part of the meetings.
Hobson’s husband waved from their driveway as protestors drove by but said she was not home and could not give any comments.
TAPintoPiscataway.net is an online newspaper serving the Township of Piscataway.