Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla took to Facebook over the weekend to express his sorrow regarding the murder of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 when an officer kneeled on his neck and back during an arrest after a deli employee called 911, accusing Floyd of using a counterfeit $20 bill.
“Racism and racial bias are both conscious and unconscious,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “Many Americans across the country are protesting for good reason: an innocent black man was killed in cold blood by a police officer for no reason whatsoever.” Calling it “unacceptable,” he called for the four officers involved to be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law.”
State prosecutors charged former Police Officer Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the death of Floyd. According to the complaint, Chauvin, who is white, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, even after Floyd lost consciousness.
The other officers involved have been fired. No charges have been filed against them as of June 1.
Floyd’s death has spurred protests in major cities across the country. Many have been peaceful. But violence, fires, and looting have erupted in several cities.
In New York City video captured NYPD officers in two police SUVs driving into a group of protesters in Brooklyn over the weekend. Another video of Saturday’s protest depicts an NYPD officer pulling down the face mask of a protester before shooting the person with pepper spray.
Concrete action required
“None of this, however, will bring George Floyd back, or lessen the pain and suffering of his family and friends,” Bhalla said. “I stand in solidarity with the patriotic Americans across the country who are peacefully expressing their anger, shock and outrage by this brutal killing.” He added that he supports peaceful protest and demonstrations while condemning those who use the protest to incite violence.
“Peaceful protesters should be listened to, heard, and respected, and should not be dismissed because of the hostile actions of those who have misused protests to incite violence, which is reprehensible and doing a great disservice to the memory of George Floyd,” said Bhalla. who noted that protests are not enough.
The mayor said concrete action must occur in order to effect change.
“After this phase of grief, frustration and anger passes, we cannot go on with our normal lives, as we always seem to do,” Bhalla said. “Unless we proactively address and correct the underlying causes of this murder, there will be more George Floyds in the future. Unless we have honest conversations which translate into concrete action, racial disparities afflicting African-Americans will continue to persist. Unless we have more African-Americans in law enforcement and positions of political authority, justice will continue to be delayed and denied.”
Bhalla took the opportunity to commend the local Hoboken Police Department which he said has not had a civil suit brought against any of its officers for excessive force or racial influenced policing in more than six years.
“We have not had a criminal complaint against any of our officers for this in the same time period,” Bhalla said. “This is not a coincidence. It’s a result of the proactive community policing they do each and every day. Thank you to Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante and all the members of the HPD who I know are as pained as the rest of us and also standing against racism within our mile square city.”
He said Hoboken grieves along with the rest of the country and prayed that Floyd may “Rest in Power.”
“I pray for our country to address the root causes of just the latest example of the America’s original sin,” said Bhalla who ended his post with a quote from Frederick Douglass, “I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”