SOMERVILLE, NJ - Borough officials are preparing for two protests this weekend stemming from the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis last week, and have reached out to merchants along Main Street to "use their judgement and prepare accordingly."
A small group of protestors walked down Main Street last Saturday with signs and ended their peaceful demonstration with pictures taken at the Historic Somerset County Courthouse.
Natalie Pineiro, executive director of the Downtown Somerville Alliance, sent an advisory to members of the DSA:
"It has been brought to our attention that there are two possible protests scheduled for this weekend in Downtown Somerville. While we believe both will be peaceful, based on the organizers and information provided, we feel it necessary to communicate the details we know so that businesses can use their judgement and prepare accordingly," Pineiro said.
The first protest is scheduled fo 1 p.m. on Friday, with fewer than 50 people expected, Pineiro said. Mayor Dennis Sullivan said that protest is being organized by a student at Raritan Valley Community College.
The second of the two protests is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m., and is being organized by the same group that organized last weekend's peaceful protest in Franklin Township, according to Pineiro.
Preliminary information obtained by Police Chief Dennis Manning is that the group on Saturday plans to assemble at the courthouse and walk west down Main Street to Borough Hall on West End Avenue, and then retrace their steps to the courthouse, according to Sullivan.
"Once again, while we believe that the protests are no cause for panic, we encourage businesses to take precautions to prepare for the unknown.," Pineiro said. "The Borough of Somerville and Somerville Police Department have also been put on notice and will take the appropriate measures to increase public safety protocols during these times."
Manning has had conversations with organizers of both protests, according to Sullivan.
Damning video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin showed Floyd in handcuffs lying face down on the street during an arrest on May 25. He was suspected of trying to pass a counterfeit bill in a nearby convenience store.
Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes. He and three other officers who assisted in the apprehension and arrest were fired the following day. Floyd became unresponsive during the final three minutes of Chauvin pressing his knee against his neck. Two autopsies have concluded Floyd died of asphyxiation.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin to second degree, while the other three officers - Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane - have now been charged with two counts of aiding and abetting and second-degree murder.
They have been arrested and each is being held on $1 million bail.
If convicted on both counts, the officers face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000, according to Ellison.
The video shows Kueng holding Floyd's back, Lane holding his legs, and Thao looking on and preventing intervention by an onlooker as he stood nearby.
The incident has triggered nationwide protests which have grown in intensity, with crowds looting stores and setting fire to police cars, police headquarters and, retail stores.