A racist comment in a Bayonne Facebook group circulating on social media has prompted a local police investigation and city officials to respond.
The comment was posted on a video shared to the group Bayonne Talks Freely.
With more than 4,300 members, Bayonne Talks Freely describes itself as “the place for adult residents of Bayonne to talk openly and freely about their concerns in and around the city, without concern of their opinions being blocked.”
Scott Guzzi posted an image of a lynching featuring the text “we need to start doing this again,” alongside a written comment that states “Time to Bring this back.”
Guzzi, whose page has since been deleted and no longer appears on Facebook, could not be reached for comment.
Guzzi’s profile picture appears to depict a symbol used to show support for white supremacy, the OK hand gesture.
The Bayonne Talks Freely group page appears to be deleted as well. However, screenshots obtained by The Hudson Reporter depict the racist comments.
In response to the comments, city officials have denounced the image and called for an investigation into the matter. According to officials, the Bayonne Police Department is investigating.
City officials denounce the posts
Mayor James Davis said he was made aware of the “horrible, threatening image” at 8 a.m. on July 22. He contacted the Police Department, which was already investigating the matter and also spoke with Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.
“The people who are allegedly involved with this online posting are a very small group that does not represent the Bayonne community,” Davis said. “The City of Bayonne is adamantly opposed to racist threats and images.”
The “very disturbing” case remains under investigation, according to the mayor. Davis noted how this incident took place as America mourns the loss of Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
“John Lewis was part of a courageous group of people who fought successfully for civil rights,” Davis said. “May John Lewis’s efforts inspire all of us to do the right thing and to respect the rights of our fellow citizens.”
City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski also weighed in.
“Last night there was a racist post made on Facebook of a man hanging from a tree and comments advocating for lynchings,“ Ashe-Nadrowski said. “This incident has been reported and is being investigated by the Bayonne Police Department.”
Ashe-Nadrowski said she is sickened and saddened that these comments were made by Bayonne residents.
“These comments do not reflect the views of Bayonne,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “As the diverse community that we are, we must all reject and speak out against such blatant racist acts.”
State officials stand against racism
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti condemned the racist comments in a statement, later echoed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
“I’m upset to learn that people who live in my district would spew such racist remarks in this day and age,” McKnight said, noting the disturbing images of a body hanging from a tree and other insensitive remarks made in Bayonne Talks Freely that reference sending people to jail or back to Africa.
“There is no place in this district or in this world for this type of racist, hateful behavior. This type of language and attitude is reminiscent of a hurtful past that my ancestors had to overcome, and it pains me as an African American woman that people in my district would be so cruel as to post pictures of lynching and make such hateful comments.”
Gov. Murphy condemned the Facebook comments, standing with Assemblywoman McKnight.
“Hate and bigotry have NO HOME in Bayonne or anywhere in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “I stand with @AswMcKnight in condemning the racist and abhorrent comments on this Facebook Page and encourage reporting of any threats of violence.”
‘A reflection of the city’
Black in Bayonne, a local black activist organization, said the comments were a reflection of the city.
“It’s 2020 and we are still fighting for basic humans rights!” said Camille High, a cofounder of Black in Bayonne.
Black in Bayonne is not surprised about the comments made by those in the Bayonne Talks Freely FB group.
“Bayonne has a rich history of racism and bigotry. These comments are a reflection of the city,” High said. “The reflection in which the Black/ Brown community are forced to look at daily.”
“The swift action and condemnation by local leadership demonstrates that Bayonne is ready to turn a new page separating itself from its past and hopefully moving into a brighter inclusive future.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.