SOMERVILLE, NJ - Mayor Dennis Sullivan closed out Monday's Borough Council meeting by reading an open letter to the community, prompted by the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who was seen in a 9-minute video circulated on social media platforms being questioned and then detained by a Minneapolis police officer who held Floyd - who was handcuffed - on the ground with his knee on Floyd's neck.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other police officers were fired the following day; Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

The incident and Floyd's subsequent death, which was ruled a homicide Monday after two autopsies showed he died of asphyxiation - has torn the country apart from coast-to-coast, every night since Memorial Day with violent demonstrations, confrontations with police, and widespread looting, with police cars, police buildings, government buildings and retail buildings large and small gutted by fires.

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Following are Sullivan's remarks:

An open letter to the good people of Somerville:

Over the past few days, communities all over America are erupting in violence not seen since the turbulent decade of the 1960’s. In our stay-at-home world of the present, our televisions bring us a constant barrage of ever-changing events unfolding before our very eyes. Fear, frustration, misunderstanding, hatred, and racism threaten to tear the fabric of community apart. We must not let that happen here in Somerville.

Outrage and calls for action are certainly warranted and encouraged, and peaceful protest is a fundamental constitutional right. With that right, however, comes the responsibility to respect the personal and property rights of others, even if their viewpoints differ from yours. Please keep that in mind if you plan to join organized demonstrations that will likely occur in the near future.

Somerville has a proud tradition of embracing and celebrating its diversity. We are twelve thousand people within two square miles, and we constantly interact with one another in churches, schools, and social and civic organizations from Adamsville Road to Cornell Boulevard. Let us draw on these positive relationships as we work together, always remembering that we are more alike than different. Use this opportunity to educate your children about the serious social forces that are shaping the world they will inherit. Call on your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your elected leaders for support and guidance at this critical time. Together we are Somerville strong, and with God’s help and your hard work, will remain ever so. Thank you.

Mayor Dennis Sullivan

June 1, 2020