SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains Township Council devoted the first 45 minutes of its meeting on Tuesday, June 16, to three resolutions condemning racism and bigotry, celebrating Juneteenth (African American Freeedom Day), and celebrating Pride Month.

Deputy Mayor Josh Losardo read the first resolution that denounced the killing of George Floyd and further condemns racism and bigotry in all forms and supports the peaceful protests that have taken place. 

"The township strives to be a more welcoming, inclusive and safe community to all," said Losardo.

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"As a black male, this is a tough one for me. I'm glad in a way that it's not just black people that are sick and tired of seeing injustice committed against people who look like me," said Councilman Roc White, whose son was an organizer of the people protest march to Westfield on June 4. "It's going to take all of us to root this out. We need everyone to be committed, not just put words on a piece of paper."

"If your friends say some things, you need to check them on it and educate them," White added. "We're just like you. We just want to live well and raise a family, and that's all. We all need to stay committed to it."

"My children, my friends are so much more open to diversity than my parents and grandparents," said Losardo. "A way to stop things (jokes) from happening is to say, 'It's not funny'. Hopefully, we’ll get to a better place in the real near future.” 

Council Elizabeth Stamler and Ted Spera also expressed their support of inclusion.

"The young people are going to stop this. It is going to be their world," said Mayor Smith, who promoted the virtual THRT listening tour on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

Next, Councilman White read a proclamation accounting Friday, June 19 as Juneteenth (AKA African American Freedom Day). In the township. June 19, 1865, was the day to commemorate Union Army general Gordon Granger's proclamation in Galveston, Texas, that all enslaved persons in Texas were now free. (Although Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation formally freed the slaves more than two years earlier, Texas, the most remote of the slave states, was slow and inconsistent in enforcing emancipation.)

"If you see your black neighbors, wish them a Happy Freedom Day on Friday," Mayor Smith said. 

A Juneteenth program is planned for Friday, June 19, at 11:00 a.m. on Facebook Live and on Scotch Plains TV.

Related: Social Justice Matters Turns to Novel Way of Marking Juneteenth

Thirdly, Mayor Smith read a proclamation that designates June as LGBTQ Pride Month. Every June, the LGBTQ community and its allies come together for a month-long celebration of love, diversity, and acceptance. 

In other business, the council is encouraging restaurants in Scotch Plains to put outdoor tables in the township's municipal parking lots (at the Municipal Building and behind the retailers on Park Ave.) from now through Sept. 3, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. The township is waiving the outdoor dining permit fee and will allow tents in the lots. New Jersey began allowing outdoor dining at restaurants and bars on Monday, June 15. 

Additionally, "non-essential retailers" may now sell merchandise outside their establishments. Haircuts, salons and other personal services may begin operating on Monday June, 22, per Gov. Phil Murphy's orders.

To view the Scotch Plains Township Council meeting of June 16, 2020, click here.

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