NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Police Chief Theresa Gazaway was sworn into office on Friday, May 1, 2020 as the Borough's first woman chief -- and has led her department and community through the trenches of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but for the past two weeks, she addressed the aftermath of the injustice of the killing of George Floyd.
Immediately, Chief Gazaway issued a joint statement with Mayor Al Morgan stating that what happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd is devastating and unconscionable. "The actions of these officers are in complete violation of the police oath and contrary to good police training." The statement continued to say, "New Providence and The New Providence Police Department are 100 percent completely committed to protecting life and serving our community. 'Protect and Serve' is our creed as it should be in all communities. The New Providence Police are continuously trained on use of force, preventing bias based policing, ethics, and deescalation techniques."
Approximately 1,500 people showed up to a "powerful and peaceful" protest to show support for the "Black Lives Matter" movement in neighboring Summit on Tuesday. The peaceful demonstration showed that racism is not an option, and that all four officers involved in George Floyd’s death should be prosecuted to the highest degree, said event organizer 18-year-old Summit resident Ethan Russo.
Immediately following this event, a tip was received by the Borough with information about a planned protest to be held in New Providence on Thursday, June 4 at 11 a.m. Participants would march through New Providence to Millburn.
The Daily Voice and NJ.com published a description of the New Providence march in an article that provided a list of planned protests of George Floyd marches and vigils throughout the state. The New Providence Police Department could not find substantiated information about the originator of this march. -- They chose to elevate the police presence and made plans to close Springfield Avenue east of South Street to the border of Summit in preparation of the expected crowd.
A peaceful crowd of approximately 300 people showed up with signs in support of "Black Lives Matter." The signs spoke of the injustice.
Without an organizer stepping forward, Chief Gazaway took charge and invited the protesters to join her in the street to start the march. She told the crowd that the New Providence Police Department will walk with them to the Summit border and for those that want to turn back, the NPPD will escort the marchers back.
Also participating were Mayor Al Morgan, councilmen Peter DeSarno and Robert Munoz, and councilwomen Nadine Geoffroy and Michele Matsikoudis, and Diversity Committee Chairman Sunil Abrol.
Mayor Al thanked the crowd for coming and said, "What was seen in the video of George Floyd was horrifying to everyone." He added, "This wouldn't happen here, especially in a town like this. The police department is hand in hand with our community. They are our neighbors they are our friends. They are here for us whenever we need them. Let's walk and be safe."
Abrol said, on behalf of the Diversity Committee, "We need to be accepting there is a problem, so we have to have faith and then work with everybody -- the public officials in our wonderful town -- and begin that change -- it's a long road -- it's going to be a generation or two."
When TAPinto spoke with the young participants, they said they wanted to be a voice for justice.
"I think it's important to use my privilege to stand up for other people," said Sarah Hagen. Her sister Allison said, "I feel like I have been given a right as a white American to be able to speak my mind and not be afraid of what's going to happen to me," she said. "And a lot of people don't have that. So I feel like I'm using my voice to speak up for those who don't."
A group of 22 year old students came to New Providence from Chester, NJ after seeing this march listed in an NJ.com article. They said, it's important to speak on social justice. They came to have their message heard through the signs they carried. Their signs read, "Black Lives Matter", "Build a Better USA", "Rest in Power."
Rupa Kale, the elected chairwoman of the New Providence Democrats as well as an administrator of the New Providence Community Facebook forum, noticed the number of young people who want a voice. "They are looking to be involved. -- They're articulate, they are smart. They don't back down."
"It's important for all of us together, irrespective of our different voices, to try to listen to each other and pay attention and learn from it," she said. "The young people are amazing. I just listened. They could be my kids. They're your kids. That's all we can do is listen. And learn not to claim to have all the answers. -- They're looking for an outlet, and it's our job to give it to them. -- We can all overcome it -- I know it."