NUTLEY, NJ - In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, there have been protests and rallies across countless cities in all 50 states. Our little town of Nutley was not an exception, being home to three demonstrations and a sign campaign over the course of the past week.
The first two peaceful protests were affiliated with #NutleyforBlackLives, which defines itself as “an organized yet decentralized group trying to amplify and empower BIPOC in our community, as well as break white silence in our community.” The term BIPOC, according to the BIPOC Project (https://www.thebipocproject.org/), stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. On their website, they state, “We use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.” The group prioritizes the voices of the BIPOC community. One organizer told TAPinto that they “stress that all BIPOC at our protests are the leaders and that white people are there simply to center and amplify their voice.”
This group of young adults and teenagers, who wish to remain anonymous, organized protests on Tuesday the 2nd and Thursday the 4th, as well as the sign campaign, #NutleyforBlackLives, on Friday the 5th. The sign campaign encouraged residents to put out signs on their lawns supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. A goal of the group is to stand in solidarity with the BIPOC community in Nutley. One organizer told TAPinto that “the biggest victory was empowering POC in the community to stand up in their own town.”
A few young Nutley residents have taken to Twitter to post that they have not seen racism in the town, arguing that this many protests are not needed. They were met with comments from a handful of young BIPOC who have experienced racism in Nutley. One former Nutley resident replied that “the amount of people who told my Korean mother to speak English at her own business (in Nutley) is disgusting.” When asked by TAPinto to comment, she added that the harassment “literally got so bad she relocated.”
At the protest on Sunday, three young women of color gave speeches about their personal experiences with racism in Nutley, most of which was experienced at the hands of their peers. While the protests in Nutley have been met with staggering amounts of support, particularly from the younger generation, racism evidently still exists in this community. One of the speakers called upon everyone in the crowd, urging them to speak up when they hear someone being mistreated due to the color of their skin.
The final speaker was AnneMarie Reish, who led the #NutleyforBlackLives protest on Thursday. While she was not involved in the organization of the protest, the group wanted to have the protest led by a BIPOC individual. When contacted by TAPinto, Reish stated, “Racism is taught - in our households, in our schools, and it has been violently enforced by the police. It is the very foundation that the American system is run on - ranging from wage discrepancies to mass incarceration. It is our duty to stand up and use our voices to speak out against these racial injustices and police brutality so #NutleyforBlackLives is doing just that. Stop killing Black people.”
An organizer of the #NutleyforBlackLives protests told TAPinto, “I would also like to share that a TAPinto article falsely represented our narrative when they said we were not there to protest police today. We are protesting police and calling for an end to racially charged violence in alignment with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”
Despite the fact that each protest was peaceful and non-violent, there were outsiders that attempted to agitate the crowds. One NHS student remarked of Thursday’s protest, “It was really disheartening to have people flip us off or shout or argue. The protest at heart was against police brutality and racism, something no one this modern day should really have a problem with. I recall early in the protest a grown man actually passed by and screamed ‘White Power’, and I can't fathom what prompted him to say that besides being an inciteful racist.”
That same student later engaged with another outsider, who drove up to the protest and said something along the lines of, “Didn’t you hear? It’s over, they convicted those guys.” To this, the student replied, “People are still racist.”
During Sunday’s march, a man was standing outside a home on Passaic Ave, along the route on which the protestors were marching. This man was agitating the protestors and yelling curse words at the crowd, which included children. One protestor recorded a video of him and shared it on Instagram. When contacted by TAPinto, the poster of the video said, “Every single time we experienced outside agitators during Sunday’s march, every single time we heard ‘All lives matter!’, every angry stare, every ‘F— you!’, ‘Go home!’, etc. it came from a white person. I think that tells you a lot about Nutley and largely, the current U.S. What good reason could you possibly have to stand against an anti-racism movement??”
Another protestor shared on his Instagram that he witnessed “a woman (shout) from her car, ‘go back to your own town!’ to a black woman.” He added, “this is not your Little Rock town from the 50’s anymore, it is BLACK PEOPLES (sic) CITY AND THEIR HOME TOO.” He also called out the individuals recording from their porches “with a disdainful look,” saying, “Just remember you have to explain that to your kids and your grandkids.”
When Mayor Tucci spoke at Sunday’s protest of the death of George Floyd, one protestor yelled out, “Call it what it is, call it a murder.” To this, Mayor Tucci responded, “Whatever.” Another protestor commented on this, telling TAPinto that “the fact that mayor Tucci would respond ‘Whatever’ to a protestor’s comment of George Floyd being murdered is a clear representation that his appearance at the protest was purely for optics, to seem more desirable to a younger and more diverse Nutley.” TAPinto Nutley did confirm that Tucci said "murder," after he said 'whatever.'
The crowd was later asked to take a knee during an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence in remembrance of George Floyd. Mayor Tucci, along with Commissioners Evans and Scarpelli, knelt in solidarity with protestors, while Commissioners Petracco and Kelly did not.
As a result of the protests, as well as all the support from the community, a Facebook group called “Nutley United” has formed. Their biography states, “Nutley NJ is an amazing small-town in Essex County New Jersey. This group is here to celebrate our success' and learn from our journey. Together, we can create great in our own backyard.” The group is made up of community members who share events from nearby towns and hope to organize more events in Nutley.
TAPinto Nutley's coverage of the Black Lives Matter rallies across the state, as well as our continuing coverage of BLM rallies in town, will appear in our Law and Justice section.
Since 2016, TAPintoNutley.net has been the only locally owned news organization serving the Township of Nutley, and is a member of the New Jersey Press Association. The Nutley Board of Commissioners first named TAPintoNutley.net the township's 'Official Electronic News Source' in 2019.