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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

NJ George Floyd Protests Against Racism, Early Pioneers and Current Activists

There have been hundreds of protests against systemic racism and police brutality in New Jersey in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25th, a black man who died in police custody in Minnesota following a brutal police assault that was captured in a bystander video which went viral. George Floyd's death as well as countless other deaths of blacks, do not exist in a time vacuum, as historical racism against blacks continues through the centuries globally. Persons around the world are participating in demonstrations against racism sparked by the death of George Floyd.

To date, the rapid response of NJ residents in organized marches in response to the murder of George Floyd is almost too large to tally as they continue. Ordinary citizens who had not been civil rights activists before, assumed successful leadership roles in organizing marches and protests to combat systemic racism. Nationwide protests do make a difference when leaders are not listening. It stopped the Vietnam War.

In response to the death of George Floyd, New Jerseyites answered the call in widely publicized protest responses to systemic racism.

Numerous high school students became involved as activists and they initiated civil rights protests. In Jersey City, students in the Black Diaspora Club of McNair Academic High School organized a protest march against police brutality and systemic racism on Tuesday, June 9, in Jersey City. At the Roselle Park High School, there was a student-organized march on June 6th. Students in Penns Grove organized a march for June 6th beginning at Penns Grove Middle School. In Woodstown, New Jersey, the high school students organized a protest in Woodstown that began in Marlton Park, proceeded down to the center of Woodstown, and continued towards Woodstown high school. The Young Activists of Atlantic County organized a protest rally, beginning across the street from the Galloway Municipal. Youths led marches in the towns of Florham Park and Madison.

Participants of the marches were of all ages, backgrounds and occupations, and for many of the march leaders and organizers, it was their first public organizing effort on such a large scale. A female entrepreneur who is a salon owner in Camden, organized a march in Camden, New Jersey. The march gained momentum and turned into something larger and gave rise to more publicity than she had anticipated.

This salon owner-turned-activist first planned on traveling nearly 1,200 miles from Camden to Minnesota to join the center of outrage over police brutality of blacks. She prompted her fiancé and other relatives to join her. 

She lived in Camden since she was a teenager and said, "I wanted to go."  "When I spoke with my family, they'd seen a lot of destruction on TV and told me it was better not to go. ‘You might not make it back,' they said. But I knew I had to do something."

After two days, she finally decided on organizing a march in her very own city of Camden.

Hundreds of people including the Camden police chief, city leaders, and other civil rights activists joined the march in the name of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and solidarity. The Camden police chief marched with protesters, carrying a banner proclaiming "Standing in Solidarity," while a police captain led a Camden Strong chant at one point. The Camden mayor also joined the protest march. This inspirational woman who organized the march assumed a leadership role that may motivate others to realize that it is just not about ideas, but about making ideas happen. "I couldn't believe it. We walked in peace. I was so moved." 

Hundreds of protest marches in NJ have taken place to date with thousands of marchers and demonstrations continue into the present. A partial list, a sample demonstrating the diversity of the geographic demographics of marchers, is as follows; they include both residents of large cities such as Camden, as well as mid-sized towns, suburbs and more rural areas:

Camden, Newark, Trenton, Jersey City, Princeton, Madison,  Hoboken, Dover, Eatontown, Cliffwood Beach, Robbinsville Township, Maplewood, Atlantic City, Mount Olive, Montclair, South Orange, Jackson, Teaneck, Nutley, Galloway, Scotch Plains, Palmyra, Weehawken, Cliffwood Beach, Newton, Kinnelon, Fanwood, Rockaway, Millburn, Deptford, Wall Township, Woodbridge, Gloucester City, Bayonne, Robbinsville Township, Union, Collingswood, Flemington, East Orange, Maplewood, Woodbury, Eatontown, Somerville, Bloomfield, Millburn, Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Elizabeth, Nutley, Hoboken, Gloucester City, Woodbury Heights, Glassboro, Belleville, Browns Mills, Lakewood, Roselle, Cranbury, Metuchen, Florham Park, Collingswood, Buena, South River, Cherry Hill, Park Ridge, Hillside, Franklinville, Plainfield, Ridgewood, Wall Township, Rahway, South Brunswick, Westfield, March from Stafford to Long Beach Island.

New Jersey has its share of brave early pioneers of civil rights and organized protests against racism. Some advocates for civil rights have gone largely unrecognized, such as Larry DeCosta, former Executive Director of Camden Legal Services and who later became the Executive Director for South Jersey Legal Services. 

Other earlier NJ civil rights activists such as Madeline A. Williams, made progress through numerous channels. Madeline A. Williams was the first Black woman elected to the New Jersey Legislature. Her rise from humble beginnings is uplifting.  In 1961, Ms. Williams was appointed as an official delegate to attend a meeting as part of the New Jersey delegation. When she arrived, the hotel denied her accommodations because she was black. She did not back down and but took the lead in a widely publicized dispute over segregated hotel accommodations.

Representative Madeline A. Williams heavily influenced the course of one of the most significant of all Democratic Conventions, the 1964 National Democratic Convention, where she let her light shine. The National Democratic party had elected her to be Vice Chairwoman of the Delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Another female Black civil rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer, often known for her saying, "I don't mind my light shining," also spoke at that Convention. Fannie Lou Hamer's powerful and moving Testimony at the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey, on August 22, 1964, can be heard here.

It is hoped that finally, enough is enough; that we are in a global recognition and consciousness shift, that the global outrage sparked by the brutal death of George Floyd, was the flash point that will lead to deeper recognition of  racism which must end, systemic racism deeply rooted in centuries of history that must end. George Floyd protests against racism, current activism and completing the works of early pioneers must continue.

Racism sadly too often is blatant or violent. But much racism goes largely unchecked partially because it is not blatant. So much of it is not heard by the ear nor obviously visible to the eye, but is systemic. Systemic racism is part of racist historical seepage, continuing on globally. It is harder to confront systemic racism than to pass legislation making it illegal to discriminate in employment based on race, or penalize blatant hurling of racist epitaphs. Hate crimes are easier to recognize because we all have eyes and ears. But systemic racism such as school closings disfavoring poor and black neighborhoods, disparities of lending inspirations for mortgages depending on the location of the neighborhood may be harder to fix. Schools are largely funded by local taxes and so disparities in one area that is race based, directly or indirectly, spill over into another area, such as the quality of education children may receive, which may determine what future opportunities may be open for them.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to racial harassment and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired. If you have experienced racism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.



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