Advocates gathered recently in Braddock Park for a racial and social justice rally.
Last year was the first that the demonstration took place, featuring a march down Bergenline following the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
This year, on a hot June 5, water was distributed to protesters, equipped with signs and banners. Originally planned as a march down Bergenline, the demonstration stayed in the park due to the extreme heat.
Nearly a dozen speakers addressed the oppression of Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza, and Israel and the oppression of people of color in the United States.
Among the speakers were former Congressional candidate Hector Oseguera, Black Lives Matter representatives Kason Little and Zellie Thomas, Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations New Jersey (CAIR) Selaedin Maksut, Dennis Febo of Amend the 13th- NJ, and Black Men United’s Nevin Perkins.
Call-and-response chants included: “Free, free, Palestine;” “If we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace;” and “In order to get to tomorrow, we must fight today.”
Amend the 13th
Currently, slavery is illegal in New Jersey except as punishment for a crime. Dennis Febo has been leading the campaign to abolish slavery through Amend the 13th- NJ.
“International law says slavery is abolished in all of its forms,” he said. “Why in New Jersey do we practice an exception, and this exception happens to effect people of color? Slavery never ended. The time to end it is now.”
Febo called for the passage of two bills that would abolish slavery as punishment for a crime.
Black Lives Matter
“Black people are still living without reparations,” said Kason Little, an organizer with Black Lives Matter in Elizabeth. “We know the system was created to act like bleach: it works for whites, and it destroys colors. … Black and Brown people are still being traumatized, terrorized, tokenized, and brutalized by the hands of law enforcement… We need reparations. We need liberation… We need to fight with everything in us to finish our ancestors unfinished business.”
Little said it is important to pressure lawmakers to pass legislation to right the wrongs of the past, chiding State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack for attending a campaign event instead of the rally.
“There was supposed to be a lawmaker here today,” Little said. “What pieces of legislation will remedy today’s tragedy?… We’re going to take the power back. We’re not asking anyone for permission… The reformer approach does not work. The only way is abolition. Abolish the system from the ground up and reconstruct it.”
Hector Oseguera tied the struggles of Palestinians to people of color in the U.S.
“I’m a believer that what you put out is what you get back,” he said. “So one day, Palestine will be free.”
He continued: “We have Congresspeople who take money from the Israeli lobby… We live in a country where you elect your representatives, but you never get the chance to select your representative… Vote… If your vote didn’t matter, there would not be as many people out there trying to convince you to not participate in this system… Join Palestinians, join our Black brothers and sisters, join any oppressed group who’s not getting their just do.”
An interconnected struggle
“Blood has been shed because the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] thinks it’s okay to slaughter Palestinian children in Gaza and force out families in East Jerusalem,” said Executive Director of CAIR New Jersey Selaedin Maskut. “They look at the Arab communities in these places as subhuman, the same way police officers in this nation look at the Black community as subhuman.”
He continued: “It is our obligation as human beings to stand up for justice and for the voiceless… As American citizens, it is our obligation to fight for justice and to defend the rights of the Palestinian people, the Black and Brown people in this country and all over the world”
The rally ended with calls to keep fighting for the cause.
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.