SOMERVILLE, NJ - Parents parked their baby strollers and wagons, made sure their kids were shaded from the sun, and picked up chalk to scrawl the names of those who have died in police custody on the pavers surrounding the Historic Somerset County Courthouse.during Sunday's "Say Their Names," demonstration, conceived as a "family friendly" event by borough resident and organizer Cheyenne Garstad.
It was the sixth protest for social justice in the past two weeks centered on the lawn of the courthouse on East Main Street.
Garstad,spent the past two weeks researching incidents that have involved the deaths of blacks while being arrested or while in police custody.
George Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed and in police custody died in Minneapolis May 25 while a white police officer kneeled on his neck has sparked national outrage and a non-stop wave of protests across the country.
Garstad, 29, married with a young child, came up with close to 200 names, with all of them memorialized on the sidewalks surrounding the Historic Somerset County Courthouse by many in the crowd of 100 demonstrators
Following her remarks and those of other speakers, the protestors hit the streets for a 2.7-mile trek through Somerville, heading west on East Main Street, south on South Bridge Street, before linking up with the Division Street pedestrian mall. The mall empties on to West Main Street. The marchers headed west for several blocks towards West End Avenue before turning on to Mountain Avenue for a short distance and made a right-hand turn on West High Street to head back to the courthouse complex.
Garstad distributed a "Call to Action" flyer encouraging people to remain pro-active in the cause to overcome bias and violence against minorities by police:
1. Protest - the flyer notes that protests helped lead to the arrests of 4 Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's arrest;
2. Donate - several social justice organizations are mentioned;
3. Use Your Voice - all people are encouraged to demand social justice;
4. Be Uncomfortable - :"Understand that we all have work to do and change will not happen unless we are all willing to acknowledge and challenge our own biases;"
5. Educate Yourselves - Be actively anti-racist.
Garstad said it was important that the protest went beyond the courthouse lawn.
"We wanted to make sure as much of the town was included, to hear our message and not just for the people who want to show up and be involved at the courthouse," she said.