SOMERVILLE, NJ - Borough police were called to the parking lot of the ShopRite supermarket late Friday afternoon when a small group of participants from a much larger Black Lives Matter demonstration and protest march earlier that day gathered to support a black woman who was involved in an altercation inside the food store with a white woman earlier last week.
The larger Black Lives Matter demonstration began at 3 p.m. on the lawn of the Historic Somerset County Courthouse before the 500 protestors marched down South and North Bridge Street to Routes 22 and 206. They returned to the courthouse after their march and after more speeches and reflection, the peaceful demonstration ended.
A small group then decided to walk down Main Street to the supermarket to gather outside. Police were called. There were no incidents or arrests and the group left peacefully.
Dameon Stackhouse, who organized the Black Lives Matter event at the courthouse, spoke passionately about black-on-black crime, public lynchings, white privilege, slavery and the need to vote and remain committed to the cause, to combat racism, demand police accountability and end social injustice.
Stackhouse was not involved with the smaller group which walked down Main Street to the supermarket.
Police are investigating the incident involving the two women that escalated as other people became involved. An IPhone video posted to Facebook shows the bedlam that broke out at the delicatessen meat counter. ShopRite employees were able to separate the crowd. Various accounts of what happened have been circulating on social media.
Friday's demonstration was the seventh held at the courthouse since June 5th, all stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25th while in police custody. He had been arrested and handcuffed, and was on the ground alongside a police SUV while a white police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck. A bystander filmed the incident during which Floyd, a black man, can be heard several times pleading with the officer saying "I Can't Breathe."
Floyd died of suffocation, according to two autopsies. Four police officers involved in the incident were fired the following day. One faces a 2nd degree murder charge; the other three face charges of aiding and abetting.
Floyd's death has triggered a nationwide outpouring demanding social justice and police accountability, and has spawned riots and looting in several major US cities.
Thousands of demonstrations have occurred in New Jersey; all but a few have been peaceful and without incident.
Stackhouse reflected on the intent of Friday's gathering, and what he hoped was accomplished.
"When you're trying to make change, it's not like it's an instant packet you can throw in the microwave and when it comes out it's ready to go," Stackhouse said. "This is like a crock pot, you have to take your time cutting up the ingredients and letting it simmer before you can put the meat in, and it has to cook a long time before it's ready.
"We were just getting the seasoning together on Friday," he added.
In order to build a foundation for change, Stackhouse said it is necessary to understand history.
"What I wanted everybody to understand is that we all have a part in what has been going on in society, and we have to address those things - white privilege, black-on-black crime, public lynchings, these are things that have been embedded in our psyche, but these are things that can be worked on.
"Our therapy has to be a societal therapy in which we work to understand each other; we're just working toward that at this point. Let the pot simmer and cook, and we can come out of with something that is sustainable," he added.
Stackhouse said he was gratified by the day's events.
"I think they were enlightened, educated, and furious,and they are energized and ready to continue," Stackhouse said.
"That's what is needed. After a while you can get tired and say 'I don't want to do it again.' but I think they're going to."