Hundreds gathered at the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in Jersey City last night for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the violent protests in Charlottesville.
“Jersey City is one of the most diverse cities in the nation … while there have been heartwarming, heartbreaking, inspiring events all throughout the country the past couple days,” began LGBTQ activist Michael Billy, one of the event co-organizers who is also running for Ward E council.
“Here in Jersey City, we have a very specific, divine opportunity because we are one of the most diverse cities in the nation it gives us the opportunity to show the rest of the country how to live for each other.”
The vigil was held in light of white nationalists hosting violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, where a car plowed through a group of counter-protesters: claiming the life of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and hospitalizing 19 others (h/t USA Today).
“We stand for Peace!” and “No justice, no peace!” were a couple of the chants that resounded throughout the plaza as the two-hour rally waged on, with around a dozen speakers taking the microphone throughout the course of the evening.
“We remember Heather, the two Virginia state troopers who died: Lt. Cullen and Trooper Bates, [we] remember their families, those injured … and of course we had to come tonight in order to express our outrage of the display of prejudice and bigotry and racism and anti-Antisemitism: we could not not come together,” said Rev. Eugene Squeo.
“We stand here for Heather and her family, we peacefully stand in the name of justice, equality for all, and strongly condemn the racist acts that happened in Charlottesville,” added Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement Executive Director Pamela Johnson, who is also seeking the Ward A council seat.
“The racist acts that are happening all over the country: we condemn them and we denounce them today.”
The Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza has been utilized several times for activists to condemn actions that have occurred under the President Donald Trump administration, such as his immigration order and revoking transgender bathroom rules.
Mayor Steven Fulop punctuated his brief remarks by stating he hopes Trump is in office for less than one full term.
“It’s a shame that we have to be out here under these circumstances but your voice certainly resonates. I know that together we can make a difference,” also referencing when elected officials and the Muslim community denounced Trump for claiming thousands of Jersey City residents celebrated after 9/11.
“… Thank you for coming out tonight, for remembering Heather, for seeing a commitment to keeping Jersey City the great place that it is with a strong, progressive voice and God willing … this won’t even be a one-term president.”
Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden called for the community at large to take a stand against all the prejudices that still exist in society.
“All I’m asking that is tonight, when we reflect on the events of Charlottesville, this is not just to remember the deaths of individuals, this is to stand strong against the -isms that are inside of our society: the racism, the sexism, the biases, the everything else that transpires,” stated Gadsden.
“Because when you see somebody on television, when you hear somebody chanting out ‘Black lives matter,’ you can’t just cut the conversation off and just say ‘all lives matter.’ No, understand that black folks are under attack and you need to stay there for a minute until that is addressed.”