WAYNE, NJ – Though the day came close to 90 degrees, and a relentless sun made it feel hotter, a crowd estimated somewhere between 600 and 1,000 people gathered together all wearing black to participate in a Black Lives Matter protest, march and rally in Wayne on Saturday afternoon.
For three-and-a-half hours the huge group met peacefully to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and to condemn racism that they feel is present throughout America and is alive and well in Wayne.
The Wayne Police Department and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department were present in force with dozens of officers staged around the parking lot and along the planned marching route.
The organizers of the event were six former Wayne High School students
- Caroline Clarke, Valley class of 2018
- Timmy Thompson, Valley class of 2019
- Marisa Budnick, Valley class of 2016
- Hayley Budnick, Valley calss of 2018
- Lydiene Ajebe, Hills class of 2018
- Jayda Lindsey, Valley class of 2017
"Our goal is to raise awareness of police brutality and violence against people of color across America and to educate people on the many issues that still plague communities of color," said Thompson. “This includes repercussions from past laws that have disadvantaged these communities."
The rally began with a march from the municipal complex, down Valley Road to MacDonald Drive where the TD Bank sits on the corner, then back up Valley Road to Preakness Avenue and back into the lot.
Wayne Police Chief Jack McNiff joined the organizers at the front of the procession to show his support of the people’s right to assemble peacefully.
Along the route, the participants chanted slogans, such as:
- No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police
- Black Lives Matter
- Hands Up, Don’t Shoot
- Say His Name. George Floyd
- Say Her Name. Breonna Taylor
There were hundreds of signs carried by the crowd with slogans like:
- Why is ending racism so controversial?
- Disarm Hate
- White Silence is Violence
- Silence is Complicity
- Defund the Police
- Convict Killer Cops
- Racism is so American, that when you protest it, people think you’re protesting the government.
- No one is free when others are oppressed.
After the march, the huge group gathered near the Wayne Veteran Memorial Park near Valley Road and for the next few hours there were speeches and music.
The event was emotional and powerful. It was positive and peaceful.
Their message was more than just a protest against the killing of George Floyd. Their message was a broader rebuke of racism in America and in Wayne. Several people of color came to the microphone and told stories of the extra attention they receive from Wayne police because of their skin color.
Some quotes from the speakers include:
- “Thank you for proving today that Black Lives Matter more than Graduations and the opening of restaurants.” Jayda Lindsey.
- “Those that say: ‘All Lives Matter,’ don’t be angry that you don’t have a movement. Be grateful that you don’t need one.” Jayda Lindsey.
- “We can protest in peace. We have proven them wrong.” Beth Marmolejos
- “It isn’t how we protest that makes you angry. It’s that we protest at all.” Timmy Thompson
- “Justice for George Floyd means ending the criminalization of black skin.” Timmy Thompson
It was an interactive event, with the speakers encouraging the crowd to chant, to sing, to clap, raise their fists and cheer. The enthusiastic protestors complied loudly and with vigor.
After three hours, the crowd began to dissipate as the event came to a close without incident.
“Wayne has every reason to be proud of the event that took place today,” said Cathy Kazan, the Wayne Board of Education President, who was in attendance. “Not only was the crowd huge, it was organized, peaceful and positive. Our Wayne schools alumni organizers really showed what their generation is capable of and gave us all great hope for a bright future with them as leaders. I would also like to thank Chief McNiff and his officers for their presence and walking with us today. They made everyone feel safe and welcome.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Fran Ritter posted this on the Wayne BLM Facebook page: “Remember this Day- June 6, 2020- One of The Most Significant Days in Wayne’s History Happened Today as Wayne Residents took to the streets to Speak Out Against Racism and Racial Inequality.”
Ritter also thanked Chief McNiff and the Wayne Police Department for helping to keep the event peaceful, “as intended.” She added: “I’m very proud of what was accomplished today!”