MONTVILLE, NJ – Hundreds gathered at the library on June 18 for an event that sponsors called a “Walk to Support Black Lives,” a protest to show support for African-Americans as well as to show outrage at the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement, particularly the recent death of George Floyd.

Police closed off portions of Horseneck and Changebridge Roads as the attendees walked from the library parking lot onto Changebridge and turned down the path near the soccer fields at the Community Park and walked up the hill to the amphitheater, led by Montville resident J.J. Brania-Hopp, who led them in shouts of, “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice – No Peace, No Racist Police,” “I Can’t Breathe!” and “Say His Name – George Floyd!”

Brania-Hopp called the problems occurring “the bi-product of a deeply rooted system that is still oppressing people of color today, and it ends with change from up top.” He encouraged the audience to research who they vote for and who their funding comes from.

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“We need to keep the conversation going,” he said.

Montville resident Kaiya Clarke told TAPinto Montville she has experienced a lot of blatant racism to the point where she had to complain to both the principal and superintendent during her time at Montville Township High School.

“There are more white people than black people, and yet black people are incarcerated seven times more than white people, while committing the same crimes,” she told the audience. “It’s not because black people commit more crimes, it’s because black people do not have the same resources to get out of jail. Cops kill three times as many black people as white per capita.”

Izzy Richardson of West Milford said he calls everyone his brothers and sisters because “we are all one race – the human race.” However, he is sick of store security guards following him in stores, he said.

“It was amazing when Nickelodeon went silent for nine minutes,” he said, referring to the TV channel’s black-out for eight minutes and 46 seconds, while it aired the words “I can’t breathe” on June 2. “That’s showing the younger generation that we have a major movement and we have to let them know that this has to stop now, because they are going to be our future.”

Richardson told the audience that they need to “keep on with the movement and keep fighting for what is right.”

Montville resident Antoine Bullock spoke about how sick he felt when he saw the video of George Floyd’s death.

“I thought I was going to cry,” he said. “I asked, ‘Is this America? How can this be happening?’ Then I just felt mad, and I felt I had to do something.”

Bullock pointed out that cell phone videos have made a major change because law enforcement can no longer get away with these deaths because they can no longer deny them. He urged the audience to vote, to support black and brown businesses, to hire people of color, and, “Don’t stop marching,” he concluded.

Resident Angela Karpf said she was enraged when her daughter, who was in third grade at the time, was called a racial epithet that begins with “N.”

“The teachers dismissed it as just a word,” she said. “But it was a missed opportunity to teach the kids about racism.”

She was also angry that Montville students do not learn about racism in their curriculum; they only have electives on them, such as one on the Holocaust. She said that Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar has a plan that is going to take years to implement.

“There is no education on tolerance and acceptance – that’s what we need in our schools – Montville and everywhere in our schools,” she said.

Karpf also wanted Mayor Frank Cooney to make a statement against racism, in addition to the statement Police Chief Andrew Caggiano made.

“This is a message to our mayor, Frank Cooney,” she said, after finding out that most of the audience was from Montville. “Mr. Cooney, you are admired, and liked, and respected in this town, and that includes me. But I’ve been waiting for you to make a statement about racism and about what we’re going to do in this town against that and how you are going to influence the [board of education] to actually change. You have sent statements thanks to the chief of police or the [township committee members] who were here last week [see the story of the Vigil here]. I really want our mayor to make a statement. Silence is a statement.”

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