SOMERVILLE, NJ - A group of 100-150 peaceful Black Lives Matter supporters returned to the Historic Somerset County Courthouse Sunday before setting off down Main Street for a protest march.
Te group turned around at the west end of town by Borough Hall, and marched back down Main Street, returning to the courthouse for a rally and speeches.
Sunday's rally was the 10th event in support of Black Lives Matters at the courthouse since June 5th. There were no organized protests during the July 4th holiday weekend There have been as many as three protests in one weekend beginning last month.
Sunday's demonstration continued the call for social justice and police reform that began following the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was taken into police custody May 25 on suspicion of passing counterfeit money. He was handcuffed and detained by police on the ground beside a police vehicle outside a convenience store while a white police officer kneeled on his neck. A bystander recorded the incident on an IPhone.
Floyd begged "I Can't Breathe" through the ordeal and eventually fell silent. He was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Two autopsies determined he had suffocated. Four police officers were fired the next day. One faces Second degree murder charges, the other three face aiding and abetting charges.
The incident is what has led to the demonstrations in Somerville and nationwide, where millions of protestors have demanded social justice and police oversight and legislation to address other grievances. Riots and looting have also plagued the nation's cities as an outgrowth of Floyd's death.
All ten demonstratiions in Somerville have been peaceful.
The four speakers Sunday included:
Mason Robinson, a Somerville resident, is CEO and head coach at Shock the World. He grew up in Somerville and attended Rutgers University where he was elected captain of the football team, helping to lead the Scarlet Knights to their first Big East conference championship. He is also the head track coach of his alma mater, Somerville High School and serves as an assistant football coach at Montgomery High School.
Art Morrison III is an entrepreneur, owning several businesses. He is an author of the book “Overcome” and a professional basketball player giving back to the community through a youth basketball training program, “AboveMAX Basketball”. He also provides small business solutions to corporations with fewer than 20 employees through Morrison Enterprise, LLC. He is highly driven by the adversity he faced throughout his life and has used his story to inspire countless others. He is passionate about the community and seeks to help others delve into the world of entrepreneurship and business.
Dr. Karen Gaffney is a Somerville resident,and an English professor at Raritan Valley Community College. She is the author of "Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox" as well as the creator of the website DividedNoLonger.com which includes her blog and resources on race and racism.
Lesley Anne Seale,a mother, activist and survivor has overcome physical challenges and emotional abuse. She became bedridden in 2013 after starting treatment for an unknown autoimmune disease and a gastric bypass which led to an emergent gastric bleed. That resulted in emergency open surgery which left her unable to eat solid food. She couldn’t remember how to hold a pen and couldn’t change the sound or tone of her voice. Her love for her children pushed her to fight past the pain and suffering. She ended the tumultuous relationship with her children’s father to create a better life. By 2019, she obtained her real estate license and began to create a new normal of peace and stability for her children.