On Sunday afternoon peaceful protesters gathered outside Jersey City City Hall to urge members of the community to act and make a change to help tear down racism after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
On May 25, George Floyd, an African American man, was killed in Minneapolis when a police officer kneeled on his neck and back during an arrest after a deli employee called 911, accusing Floyd of using a counterfeit $20 bill.
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.
Resident Anthony Rivera organized a peaceful protest in front of City Hall joined by friends and strangers on Sunday, May 31 chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police,” “Hands up don’t shoot,” and Floyd’s haunting last words, “I can’t breath.”
“We are tired of dying,” said Rivera. “We are tired of protesting the same damn thing and we are tired of being tired. We need people to step the f**k up and do something and be a change. Have the uncomfortable conversation. We are uncomfortable every day.”
Rivera and the protesters urged the community to come together and for their non black neighbors to be an ally.
“Use your voice, use your power, use your platform, and call for systemic change,” said Rivera. “Black lives matter.”
He and protesters urged residents to contact their senators and local officials, donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, acknowledge systemic racism, and diversify their friend circles.
“Everyone knows there is racism, but what have you done to stop it?” asked Rivera to a crowd of onlookers and passersby.
He said he was dismayed by the city’s lack of response, noting that neither Mayor Steven Fulop nor the city’s official Twitter page had released any statements condemning the officers, racism, or expressing sympathy for Floyd, who is just the latest death in a string of African American deaths at the hands of police or white people.
“Show some solidarity,” said Rivera. “People are dying. Aknowledge this. Just something that shows I hear you and I see you.”
Mayor disgusted with police brutality and racial bias
Mayor Steven Fulop did release a statement on his Facebook page at 3:16 a.m. on May 30, stating that he typically doesn’t post regarding issues that didn’t happen in Jersey City but noted that Floyd’s murder is different.
“It speaks to the centuries old racism and biases that have existed in our country and sadly still exist today,” said Mayor Fulop. “I want to extend my condolences to George Floyd’s family. He was a father, he was a brother, he was a son and most importantly he should be alive today. I know growing up white in America it is impossible for me to fully appreciate the hardships and struggles that a person has knowing that they are often treated differently solely because of the color of skin; however not being able to experience that firsthand doesn’t change my disgust for what we see time and again with regards to police brutality and racial bias towards the African American community.”
He said he has been thinking a lot about what can be done in Jersey City to strengthen the community and make sure “our city serves as a model for acting fairly and protecting ALL its residents.”
“While in Jersey City, we have taken some massive steps forward over the years, I know even here we have more work to do,” said Mayor Fulop. “My commitment to you is that we will continue to work hand in hand with leaders in the African American community to get our city to the place that it should be with every community knowing they are always treated equally.”
On Monday, June 1, Black Men United also hosted a protest march from Berry Lane Park to the South District Precinct. Another protest and rally is planned for Saturday June 6 in front of City Hall at 280 Grove St. from 4 to 9 p.m. according to a social media post by “Jersey City Protest 6/6.”