The Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement got a huge turnout, easily over a 1,000 people, at a rally against police brutality hosted at City Hall this afternoon.
Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement Executive Director Pamela Johnson was one of many who denounced the killing of George Floyd, also indicating that this should be a turning point in history.
“The time for decisive action is now. We have reached a moment where changes must be made. The horrific murder of George Floyd has placed the spotlight on the lack of police oversight in our country and it is our responsibility as a community to do better,” said Johnson.
In another fiery speech, Jersey City NAACP President Rev. Nathaniel Legay described the imagery from Floyd’s death as a clear indication it’s time to push back locally.
“It’s easy for us to talk about New York, and it’s easy for us to talk about Georgia: know that they have folks here in Jersey City with a knee on top of your necks and they will not move!,” Legay shouted to a loud reaction from the crowd.
” … I want you to know that we want our knees moved! We we want them to move their knees off our necks! What I also want to talk about is white silence is violence.”
Johnson later read from an open letter drafted by multiple organizations directed to Mayor Steven Fulop, the City Council, Public Safety Director James Shea, and Police Chief Michael Kelly calling for significant police reforms.
“A city council ordinance outlining the creation of a CCRB [civilian complaint review board] must be made immediately … creating a transparent process with the power to hold officers accountable is crucial,” noted Johnson.
The second action item is the release of body camera footage from police officers who responded to a large Bostwick Avenue gathering that got out of hand last month that led to at least a couple people involved to be struck by a police baton.
“Residents have been traumatized due to violence from police and to heal we need to address these matters. We cannot move forward without resolving the past,” exclaimed Johnson.
She said that the activists need a commitment and a procedural plan on how community members will meet with JCPD department leaders and officers on a regular basis.
“Steps have been made in the past, and we need to solidify a commitment to raise the bar on the quality of community policing in Jersey City.”
Some of the organizations that signed off on the open letter include the Jersey City NAACP, the Black Men United Coalition, the Greenville Neighborhood Alliance, Orient Avenue Block Association, Go Get My Kids, Jersey City Together, Bergen Communities United, among many others.
Yesterday, following the peaceful protest in Greenville, Fulop said he supported a CCRB, following the result of pending litigation in Newark, and also said he agreed with the release of body cam footage from the Bostwick Avenue incident – noting that discretion currently lies with the county prosecutor.
Additionally, Council President Joyce Watterman said prior to today’s rally that she will introduce a resolution next week in hopes of forming an ad hoc police committee that includes both council and community members.
Also from the steps of City Hall, former Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden echoed many of the sentiments expressed by Johnson, saying that he and his fellow activists don’t feel that there is always justice in Jersey City.
“We do not have mechanisms in play for transparency for seeing videos or seeing anything that happens when it relates to police abuse. That’s why it was so important for Nevin Perkins [of Black Men United Coalition] yesterday led hundreds, if not thousands, all throughout Greenville demanding the same thing that we’re asking for today,” said Gadsden.
“These demands, every last person in this crowd is going to be responsible for emailing legislators, council people, the mayor, the chief of police because we are going to have what we deserve.”
He was quick to note that the demands and action items are not an indictment of the entire police, especially since his grandfather was one of the first African-Americans on the Jersey City police force.
After the rally, Ashlyn Holliday said she liked the action items she heard from Pamela Johnson, especially the creation of a civilian complaint review board.
“I think it’s amazing, honestly what a lot of people want is transparency and accountability. The whole organization of the police is to keep the people in check. But that has kinda gotten out of hand, so the people need to step in and just make sure that everyone has the same access to knowledge,” she said.
The crowd then marched down to the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, where they continued to rally for about another half hour.
The rally streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below:
John Heinis and Corey McDonald contributed to this report.