SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — As protests and riots gripped many cities around the country this week, dozens of protestors laid down on South Orange Avenue for eight minutes to mark how long Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to George Floyd’s neck, killing him. To allow for coronavirus restrictions, the protest did not have much pre-protest publicity, limited people gathering, and proceeded with masks on and social distancing in place for the protestors.
SOMA Justice issued a press release about the action, which remained peaceable, saying the action was also "to honor victims of racist violence, to protest the disregard for Black life, and to demand that white Americans take official and personal accountability for their complicity in the everyday exploitation and devastation of Black Americans."
At one point while the protestors were on the ground, a South Orange Police officer said over the loudspeaker of his crusier, "Get out of the street. Let's pick it up and move. Pick it up and move, let's go, people. You made your point." But the assembled stayed on the ground and he did not interfere with the protest.
The protestors then walked up South Orange Avenue to the corner of Valley Street chanting slogans of support and getting encouraging honks from drivers going by.
From the press release:
The DIE-IN lasted eight minutes, to reflect the length of time that Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to George Floyd’s neck, murdering him as he pleaded for his life and bystanders begged him to stop. The DIE-IN was livestreamed on the SOMA Justice public facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SOMA-Justice-Addressing-Race-and-Inequality-472346896910002/
In 2020, white supremacy’s assault on Black communities remains constant. In all its forms -- racial violence, police brutality, economic deprivation, public health inequities, educational malpractice, housing conditions, microaggressions and white complicity to name just a few -- white supremacy continues to dehumanize and terrorize Black communities, and deprive our Black brothers and sisters of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
George Floyd is only one recent and widely known victim of this onslaught. We gather for Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered in cold blood on a suburban street. We gather for Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her own bed. We gather for Emerald Black, who was yanked from her car by police, and stomped upon so severely that she miscarried her pregnancy. We gather for all Black victims, whose names we know and those we do not. We gather to acknowledge white complicity and violence. We gather because the suffering of these families grieving the killing of their loved ones will never end.
“In our own towns in the last few years, white neighbors have called the police on Black residents waiting outside for friends, police have attacked and herded Black children trying to get home and brutally assaulted a disabled Black man, and a local business’s employee recently screamed slurs at a Black woman born and raised here, telling her to go back to her country.” says SOMA Justice’s founder Dr. Khadijah Costley White. “This is not separate from babies in cages or people gasping for air on the street or a pandemic that disproportionately kills Black people — we must work to end racist suffering inside and outside of our community, and all the conditions that allow it to continue.”
“We call on all white people to acknowledge our shared American tradition of racism and the impact it has on current race relations,” says Maplewood resident and DIE-IN organizer Dr. Jan Oosting Kaminsky. “We recognize that we have been beneficiaries of a violent system that oppresses and harms Black people and culture. We challenge white accomplices to affirmatively show support for our Black and Brown neighbors. We call for an immediate cessation of police and other white violence against our communities of color.”
Organizers urge all white people to take an immediate stand by seeking out and engaging in specific direct ACTION (rather than talk) that combats white and state sanctioned violence NOW. Possible direct actions are described in articles linked below.
SOMA Justice is a non-profit organization based in South Orange / Maplewood (SOMA), New Jersey that works to promote racial justice in SOMA and beyond, through discussion, community-building, and direct action. We do this in solidarity with other groups working against racism and injustice, such as People’s Organization for Progress in Newark, NJ, and Reclaim the Block in Minneapolis, MN, and all others working to center and recognize the importance and value of Black life.
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TAPinto SOMA is a free online newspaper serving the Townships of Maplewood and South Orange Village with no paywall.
TAPinto SOMA is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.