NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Part-time lecturers at Rutgers calling for job security, students seeking a fossil fuel-free future, immigrants looking for a better way of life, residents denouncing racism – there was a sense of unity among the 250 or so people who gathered Saturday afternoon.
It may seem as if they are locked in disparate, if not desperate, battles, but many who grabbed the moment by the bullhorn spoke about how their causes overlap and interlock.
Rutgers students calling for the school to go carbon neutral by 2030 and adjunct professors who said they will be losing their jobs in the spring when their expository writing course load is handed off to graduate students agreed they were fighting against what they described as a culture of corporate greed.
A similar sentiment was echoed by those who turned out still clinging to the hope of halting a plan to tear down Lincoln Annex school.
In fact, Saturday’s march began in front of the faded beige-bricked school on Somerset Street before progressing through the city.
“We are sick and tired of the abuse by politicians and big corporations,” one speaker told the crowd. “We want justice for our community. We want justice for the professors, teachers, students, workers in our community. And, Lincoln Annex school is not for sale.”
Although the crowd immediately launched into a chant of “No justice, no peace,” Saturday’s event – dubbed “RLivesRJobsRSchools” - was peaceful.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t impassioned, whether they were calling for Rutgers to lower tuition or declaring that Black Lives Matter.
One speaker called for the creation of a wide-reaching watchdog group in the city. This so-called Office of Sustainability would have “the power to enforce environmental, economic and social sustainability. From what I’ve heard from people in power is that it’s not their job, that it’s not their responsibility and they keep tossing that responsibility around until it lands right back here in the New Brunswick community.
“Let’s demand an Office of Sustainability with the power to never let this happen again so if anyone was to suggest it, there would be an institution to say no. We understand the connection between our environment and a New Brunswick community and we will not stand for it.”
When the speakers finished and the march began, the protestors filled the narrow roadway between Lincoln Annex and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
As they walked along - members of New Labor walking shoulder to shoulder with members of AAUP-AFT PTLFC Local 6324 and others - they chanted slogans such as “Get up, get down, immigrants built this town” and “Stop the layoffs, stop the bull, we are not disposable.”
Aside from a handful of marches denouncing police misconduct and institutional racism in the light of George Floyd’s death in May, Saturday’s protest was the first of its kind in New Brunswick since February when about 200 people marched through the streets to speak out against the plan to raze Lincoln Annex. Many of them concluded the protest by speaking out at the Rutgers Board of Governors meeting.
The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the New Brunswick Board of Education, RWJ Barnabas, the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders, local city government and DEVCO are working on a plan to bulldoze Lincoln Annex and build a cancer hospital that would be among the best of its kind in the world.
City officials have said that the $55 million replacement school is scheduled to be built on more than four acres of land at 50 Jersey Ave. without cost to the city’s taxpayers.
Construction is expected to take about three years to complete. In the meantime, students from Lincoln Annex would attend the Pathways Campus at 40 Van Dyke Ave.
A steering committee of parents, teachers, administrators, community members and others recommenced to the Board of Education that they proceed with the plan build a new school that will have more than twice the number of parking spaces and a larger cafeteria than Lincoln Annex. It will also have an outdoor recess area, something Lincoln Annex lacks.