MONTCLAIR, NJ - A woman has been relieved of her duties from working at Mountainside Medical Center after videos surfaced of her yelling at Black Lives Matter protesters at a counter-protest in Nutley.
Twitter users reported that Valerie Pastore, of Nutley, NJ was seen at an anti-Black Lives Matter protest on June 26 screaming at protesters and allegedly making the Nazi salute.
The very tense standoff in Nutley, had residents and protesters at odds, when social media rumors stated that the protesters were planning on toppling or defacing the statue of Christopher Columbus. Pastore was among the group of counter-protesters who can be seen yelling obscenities at the BLM protesters. At one point, Pastore yells to the protesters (as seen in the attached video) about China and calls them socialists. Another counter protester calls them communists, and others yell for them to go back to their country.
After a series of protests and rallies by Nutley for Black Lives, since the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill.
As rumors circulated the Nutley community that protesters were planning on toppling the Christopher Columbus statue, the event turn into a shouting match after a group of counter-protesters showed up in response, despite efforts of police and others, to dispel rumors.
Nutley for Black Lives describes themselves as, "A small, hometown organization dedicated to fighting for the #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement." They were part of the large rally and march in June, and subsequent protests in Nutley township.
After the event went viral, and photos and videos surfaced, people took to social media to call out some of the agitators and notify their employers, this included Pastore and Mountainside Medical Center.
On July 1, a Twitter user named 'Vote Dem for the Planet,' wrote,
"Valerie Pastore of Nutley, NJ was seen at the anti--BLM protest in Nutley yesterday in a MAGA hat, screaming at protesters and at one point making the Nazi salute. She works as the director of physician recruitment at Hackensack Meridian Health – Mountainside Medical Center."
In her role as physician recruitment director, the public expressed concern that she was responsible for hiring doctors and may hire doctors with racist, biased or antisemitic beliefs. Once calls for her to lose her job surfaced, Pastore has since deleted her Facebook profile.
According to her Linkedin page, she is a senior level director and corporate recruiter with 24 years of recruiting experience. She had only been with Mountainside Medical Center less than a year, since January 2020.
Hackensack Meridian - Mountainside Medical Center leadership responded quickly via Twitter and informed the public that the matter was being reviewed and addressed by the leadership team. They wrote to one Twitter user,
"Prejudice and hate of any kind has no place in our hospital. This matter is being reviewed and addressed by our leadership team."
Two days following the surfacing of videos and images, the Mountainside Medical Center staff wrote on Twitter Friday,
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This individual is no longer an employee at our organization."
This entire miscommunication debacle started after Lorraine Kucinski, President of Nutley UNICO, reported that the organization was notified by several sources on June 24 claiming that the group was targeting the Christopher Columbus monument on the lawn at town hall. The rumors claimed that the group was planning to either remove or deface the monument. An email was then sent to all UNICO members calling for them to show up to defend the monument. UNICO is an Italian-American civic organization who had was purchased the monument through the fundraising efforts of Nutley branch of UNICO.
The Nutley Police Department tried to dispel rumors, but it was apparently too late. When the Nutley Police Department informed UNICO that the "march was not about the statue but a BLM march," Kucinski said, "...we immediately retracted the call to our membership in another private email."
The UNICO retraction, sent on June 25 reads:
“We've been advised that tomorrow's (Friday) demonstration in Nutley is not focused on the Columbus Statue, but is a Black Lives Matter initiative. As such we need not be concerned with any damage or defacing of our statue. There will be police presence in the area to ensure this since that is where the demonstration is planned to end. Accordingly, there is no need for us to coordinate a counter demonstration. Our president Lorraine endorses canceling the get-together at the statue.”
According to TAPinto Nutley, on the day of the March, shortly after noon on June 26, Kucinski is reported to have reached out to Catherine Pezo of Nutley for Black Lives to state, "Nutley UNICO would not interfere with your march."
Despite the email and reports from the Nutley Police Department about the event, a group of about 40 counter-protestors gathered around the monument to await the arrival of the Nutley for Black Lives protesters.
As an added measure, the Nutley Police Department then formed a perimeter around the monument area consisting of plastic "Jersey barriers."
The Nutley for Black Lives group stopped on Franklin Ave. at the intersection of Chestnut St. before continuing to the center of local government. Waiting on town hall lawn was a group of middle-aged residents and retirees, including Pastore.
Initially the counter protestors chanted "USA! USA! USA!," but as the protestors got closer, the chants disappeared. Individuals within the group shouted, "Get off the property," "What about abortion," "Get a job," and the N-word, more than once.
Kucinski stated that "If anyone attended the event that day they did so of their own accord and not as representatives of Nutley UNICO. We would not and do not condone any of the negative, disrespectful behavior we learned took place that day."