Bayonne residents continue to call on Board of Education Trustee Michael Alonso to resign over his social media comments that many consider racist and an incitement to violence.
On June 29, concerned citizens gathered for a small protest outside of Bayonne High School prior to the Board of Education meeting.
In early June, Alonso’s Facebook posts regarding protests against the murder of George Floyd sparked outrage.
Floyd was an unarmed African-American man who was killed in Minneapolis when police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
A screenshot of Alonso’s posts have been circulating on social media, but they no longer appear on Alonso’s page.
“Where will the Bayonne Riot Start? Walmart- QuickChek- Shoprite?” Alonso posted.
In another post, Alonso shared a political cartoon of Joe Biden changing a “Black Lives Matter Sign” to “Black Votes Matter.”
On June 2, the Bayonne Board of Education held an emergency meeting, during which Trustees Jodi Casais, Lisa Burke, Vice President Christopher Munoz and President Maria Valado called on Alonso to resign.
The board voted 7-0 to adopt a resolution condemning the killing of George Floyd as well as Alonso’s comments, which they deemed racist. Trustees Ava Finnerty and Alonso were not present.
In addition to many school boards, the Hudson County Republican leadership has also called on Alonso to resign.
At that emergency meeting, Rev. Dorothy Patterson of Wallace Temple AME Zion Church demanded his immediate removal.
“If you allow him to stay on this board, you have now put a knee on the neck of every African American in this city,” Patterson said.
She challenged the board to go beyond what they were told was possible and remove Alonso, doing not just the right thing but also what she said was the righteous thing.
“I came here today hoping I can leave here and breathe,” Patterson said of the figurative knee being held on her neck by Alonso’s remaining on the board.
The board cannot remove Alonso because he is an elected official. Many of the trustees urged residents to file ethics complaints against him and vote him out in November.
Alonso said the posts were meant to spark “an intellectual discussion” and that he does not intend to resign.
A group of concerned citizens, meanwhile, with the backing of local activist group Black in Bayonne, handed in hundreds of signatures petitioning for his removal.
‘Alonso must go!’
A small group of protesters, led by Shawnda Jacobs brandishing a megaphone, chanted and waived signs in front of Bayonne High School before the June 29 meeting.
Jacobs said the group will be at every Board of Education meeting until Alonso resigns.
Ortavia Jackson, a tutor, mentor and mother, also called for his resignation or immediate removal.
Many residents wrote comments to the board calling for Alonso’s removal, some of which were read aloud by the board secretary.
At the meeting, the protesters and other residents called for his resignation or removal, including Bayonne Teacher’s Association President Gene Woods and Bayonne High School student Dominic Velez.
Velez said that Alonso’s comments have been an issue for years and read out offensive Facebook posts from 2013 to 2017.
“Hate should never have a place to live on the board that represents our school district or within its representatives,” Velez said. “It has found a place to live with Michael Alonso where it has lived, grown, and festered for years. I and other members of the community have watched this go on for years, and it is safe to say we have had enough.”
Velez condemned a video statement in which Alonso said that other board members should be tolerant and “practice what they preach.”
Velez said, “You may deny it all you want, but we know that your intolerance of people who are different from you has fueled your actions that have inevitably led to the board to call for your resignation.”
Woods condemned Alonso’s video as “comical,” alleging that Alonso suggested not paying teachers during the pandemic.
Velez said that he and other community members have signed the petition against Alonso and will vote against him in November.
Calls for immediate removal
In the petition addressed to the Board of Education Trustees, calls for Alonso’s removal continue to mount.
“It is the aim of the community of Bayonne, New Jersey to build a better Bayonne, however on May 31, 2020 Michael J. Alonso, Trustee Board of Education member, posted social media comments that were not only Racist, Bias, but also an Incitement of Violence right here in our town,” the petition states.
The petition charges that Alonso’s “remarks have concerned the community of Bayonne” and his actions “should not and will not be accepted in our community.”
“We all consider this town ‘Bayonne Strong’ for many different reasons,” the petition said. “We will not allow this type of behavior to go unseen especially for the safety of all of us who live and work in Bayonne.”
The petition urges leaders to act now to remove Alonso immediately from the school board.
“We are always striving to build a better Bayonne, and Trustee Michael J. Alonso has tarnished his reputation as a TRUSTEE of the Board of Education. That is a calling to a higher standard,” the petition said. “Trustee Michael J. Alonso has proven by his own words and actions on social media that he is not capable of making educational decisions for all our children.”
The petition has been circulating on social media, with printed copies for pick up at participating businesses.
In a previous statement to the Bayonne Community News, Alonso defended his posts.
“My post was about Bayonne’s economic viability; an intellectual discussion on why we won’t have looting since we don’t have any stores,” Alonso said.
According to Alonso, people in the city have been complaining for years about there being no stores.
“I am an advocate of peaceful protest, but rioting and looting should not be tolerated,” Alonso said, reiterating his support for President Trump. “No one is thinking about keeping our kids safe. They are just thinking about their re-election.”
Alonso has also released a video in defense of his comments, in which he thanks local ShopRite and WalMart employees for their service.
Akin to a campaign ad, the video features clips of the trustees calling on Alonso to resign before cutting to Alonso at the Bayonne WalMart.
He reiterated that his first post about potential riots was only a conversation starter and urged everyone to accept each other’s differences.
The video un-ironically ends with a still image featuring a George Orwell quote: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
At the June 29 meeting, Alonso did not address comments regarding his posts.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.