WESTFIELD, NJ — An annual march symbolic of the marches of the Civil Rights Movement will happen in Westfield Monday, Martin Luther King Day.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield will lead the march and, due to COVID-19, is taking an accompanying service online. Westfield's 34th annual MLK events come at a time of increased attention to racial justice here and across the nation.
“It has been a wild year and a difficult year, not only because of COVID and really because of this tumultuous presidential election cycle, but for us at the MLK Association,” said Elizabeth Wolf, president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield. “The summer of civil actions across the country because of the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were so important because they really are waking people up.”
In Westfield, over 2,000 people knelt for George Floyd in Mindowaskin Park June 7 at a protest attended by Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Tom Malinowski. It followed a smaller protest held May 31 at the park and a protest during which about 1,500 people marched from Scotch Plains to Westfield on June 4 in support of Black Lives Matter.
At noon Monday, the MLK Association will hold a short ceremony at the MLK Monument on South Avenue, followed by a processional into town, organizers said.
“The King Association invites all to join in the march and bring signs with them if they wish,” Wolf said. “Remember to wear your mask.”
At 1 p.m., the Association will broadcast its pre-recorded service on YouTube and Local Access Channel 36. Visit the association’s website www.MLKWestfield.org on Jan. 18 or its Facebook page for the link to YouTube.
The broadcast, Wolf said, will feature portions of a self-guided tour of African American history in Westfield and will show Dr. King speaking. It will also show photos of the Black Lives Matter protests in Westfield and montages of lawn signs people had placed throughout the town stating, “Hate Has No Home Here.” Members of the local clergy will also speak, she said.
The year’s progress that Wolf described, however, does not come without at least one detractor. Banners posted at the South Avenue Circle have been put back up after being torn down earlier in the week, Wolf said Wednesday. It is not first time signs in support of racial justice placed at that location have been torn down.
The recent banners state, “Say Their Names …” and reference George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Floyd, a Black man, died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May, and Arbery, also Black, was killed after being chased by armed white residents in Georgia in February.
“We put up our banner on Sunday afternoon and it was vandalized and torn down Sunday evening,” Wolf said. “The police are working on that. There was a witness. But the police stepped in, they got them. They gave them back to me Monday afternoon and I put them back up yesterday.”
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