NEWARK, NJ — A little more than a week after People’s Organization for Progress (POP) chairman Larry Hamm helped lead a model demonstration of 12,000 people through Newark, the U.S. Senate candidate returned to the streets Monday to restate a message he and fellow organizers have been shouting every Monday since 2016.
“Police brutality is not just a problem in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Police brutality is not just a problem in Louisville, Kentucky. Police brutality is not just a problem in Brunswick, Georgia,” Hamm shouted into a megaphone in front of the Peter Rodino Federal Building. “Police brutality is a big problem here in the state of New Jersey.”
Prior to the international protest movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd, the black man from Minneapolis who died when an officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, POP had been out in front of the Federal Building at the start of each week since 2016. They stopped only this past March and April when the coronavirus sent everyone into state-mandated quarantine.
The initiative, Justice Mondays, called for U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, who works inside the Federal Building, to investigate the deaths of several black New Jerseyans killed by police. Organizers are also asking for a reinvestigation by the Attorney General into the death of Earl Faison, who died after being beaten by officers in an Orange, NJ police station in 1999.
Justice Mondays have typically been met with little fanfare until now, with just a few POP members and friends waving signs denouncing police brutality. Now, as the cause is thrust onto the global stage with historical fervor, the action could gain lasting momentum.
Rattling off a list of names, Hamm told the crowd of about 200 on Monday that they were there to seek justice for Abdul Kamal, shot 15 times by Irvington police; Jerome Reid, shot by a Bridgeton police officer in 2015; Kashad Ashford, shot four times by Lyndhurst and New Jersey State Police; and Radazz Hearns, a 14-year-old who survived 17 shots in the back from Trenton police.
“I could stand here all day and talk all day about police who have killed people in this state in the last decade,” Hamm said. “In the last 10 years, municipalities in NJ have settled more than $200 million in police brutality cases.”
POP is taking the push for justice in its home state all the way to Trenton for a statewide march, though details have yet to be announced. Organizers wanted answers from Gov. Phil Murphy’s office in the case of Maurice Gordon, a 28-year-old unarmed black man who was killed by a white State Trooper on the Garden State Parkway in May.
Reid’s mother, Sheila Reid, was present to advocate for an investigation into her son’s death and that of other victims of police brutality. POP originally began Justice Mondays in response to Reid’s killing.
“The day that my son got murdered, he had a video too. That officer shot my son seven times,” she said, referring to the viral video evidence that sparked the Floyd protests. “The case needs to be reopened, there is no statute of limitation on murder. On his death certificate, it says homicide.”
Support for Newark’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is currently awaiting a state Supreme Court decision to be reinstated, also continued on Monday. Mayor Ras Baraka, who established the city’s CCRB in 2016, made a surprise appearance to demand action.
Right now, Newark is embroiled in a state Supreme Court battle with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No.12 for the right of its Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate public complaints against police via subpoena. A win for the city would make it one of the first CCRBs of its kind in the United States.
“We’re still 50 years in a consent decree in Newark, we’re still struggling with police brutality today,” Baraka said. “What do I want? I want a CCRB, I want the Supreme Court to let Newark do it the way we want to do it: with subpoena power and investigatory power. I’ve been fighting for it since I was a teenager.”
POP is asking for all local organizations, groups of supporters and houses of worship to pick one Monday out of the year to stand with their organizers in front of the Rodino building to continue urging for these items. Readers can contact POP for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.