Jersey City Together held a memorial service in honor of George Floyd near the monument of Martin Luther King Jr. in Bergen Lafayette on the third anniversary of his death this afternoon.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
They advocated for the hiring of emergency outreach workers in Jersey City to address mental health issues to avoid extreme police measures when 911 is called.
The death of George Floyd initiated an examination of the systemic problems when police respond to mental health and/or drug crises. Shortly thereafter, the Black Lives Matter movement surged during COVID with calls for social justice and an end to police brutality.
“The number of people killed at the hands of police has continued. We’ve watched as our streets become more and more violent. One of the most dangerous places for a person of color is in police custody. Lord, please help us,” Perry declared.
“We remember the pledges and rallying cries of corporations around the world that demanded we do better. We have each returned to our own corner.”
The Jersey City Together Health and Safety Team researched how to address emergency calls when individuals are experiencing a mental health or substance abuse issue, noting that hundreds of calls to 911 in Jersey City result from this problem.
A request for proposal (RFP) to hire outreach workers was passed by the Jersey City Council by a vote of 8-0 in April 2022, however, proposals submitted to the city were not approved due to the associated costs.
“For a simple thing like a counterfeit 20 dollar bill, he was murdered. We provided force. Many of the tragic deaths of Black Americans began with a 911 call,” said Ann Marie Nazzaro, a member of the Jersey City Together Public Safety and Health Committee.
She noted several cases involving African Americans being killed by overzealous police in the last 10 years, such as Michael Brown and Sandra Bland.
“We were told negotiations are going on … in the last two weeks,” Bill Lillis, also of the Jersey City Together Public Safety and Health Committee, said.
“We said we were going to make fundamental changes. If you sent outreach workers out on emergency calls with police to provide a continuum of care, that was the best ways to promote justice, to get people the help they need,” he argued.
He noted Hoboken, Bayonne, Newark Camden, and Willingboro have all already hired at least one outreach worker in case of a dire situation.
“Three years ago, the coalition held a protest for George Floyd. That protest galvanized more than 3,000 people to meet us down at City Hall for a very peaceful protest,” Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Executive Director Pamela Johnson explained.
She noted that every Tuesday for the next three months, protests were held for Floyd.
“That trauma that we experienced as onlookers and doers can’t even compare to the trauma that those who witnessed George Floyd’s murder had to endure.”
She explained that in Jersey City, police have been faced dire consequences in certain circumstances related to misconduct, referencing Sgt. John Ransom losing his job and the opportunity to hold a public job after striking a civilian with his police car in 2018.
“We will not stand by and see our people murdered by the hands of police officers: We will not bow down to anyone,” Johnson declared.
“Today, we continue challenging the systems that killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020. We want to prevent our community youth from what happened to George Floyd,” Celeste Williams, of Caring Capable Hands Inc., said, adding that she lost a child to gun violence.
Carol Harris, another member of the Jersey City Together Health and Safety committee, said they did a study where the majority of calls a police officer responded to were related to mental health, which they’re not equipped to address.
She was unhappy about the delay of the outreach worker program in Jersey City, which might defuse such issues.
“Nothing has happened. Stop procrastinating. Fund an organization for behavioral health and mental health workers to ensure the citizens of Jersey City receive the care they need,” Harris concluded.