Rallygoers gathered in downtown Jersey City on Saturday afternoon to call for the resignation of Jersey City Councilwoman Amy DeGise because she had hit a cyclist with her vehicle on July 19 without stopping or reporting the incident for several hours.
Headlined by a number of progressive figures from Hudson County as well as the cyclist himself, a crowd gathered with signs and bikes on the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza calling for DeGise to step down, although a spokesman for her said Friday that she does not plan to.
“Hey hey, ho ho, Amy [DeGise] has got to go!” chanted the crowd.
“The worst thing you can have in a so-called civilized society is somebody who believes that they can commit crimes against you, and nothing will happen,” he said. “Because they’re part of a system that will shield what they’ve done, and hide what they’ve done.”
Andrew Black, the cyclist who was hit in the incident, appeared before the crowd to big applause, saying that he was humbled to be at the rally and was grateful for being alive. “I’m not here seeking out a vendetta, I’m not out here seeking any of that,” he told the crowd. “All I’m seeking is justice, and how we get justice is right here today, look at us.”
Jimmy Lee of SafeStreetsJC also spoke at the rally, saying that all hit-and-runs “deserve the utmost condemnation.” “It is never acceptable to leave the scene of a crash,” he said. “It is a crime for leaving. It is also inhumane, immoral, and reduces the chance someone injured gets timely, life-saving aid.”
Oseguera and other progressives such as Ron Bautista also took the opportunity to take aim at the city’s and county’s political establishment.
“We here because we have a very broken and corrupt political system that only caters to certain people, said Oseguera. “It’s not the people in this crowd. These people care about two things: they care about money, and they care about power. Those are the only things they care about.”
What happened at the hit-and-run
DeGise’s hit-and-run was captured by CCTV footage provided to the Hudson Reporter by the city, showing what took place at the intersection of MLK Drive and Forrest Street at around 8 a.m. on July 19.
The videos capture Black bicycling south on MLK Drive, crossing a double yellow line to pass a stopped car on the left, running a red light and looking away from oncoming traffic before being hit by a black SUV from his right.
The impact knocked him over onto the road, but the vehicle continued to speed east without stopping.
Black then makes his way to the corner as a number of pedestrians come over to check on him before resting on top of an ice cooler, and his crushed bike is on the other corner.
Black said in an interview after the rally that he saw two vehicles in the front “in the box” and thought that he could reach the yellow light if he went “a little faster.” “When I look up after I’m looking left, I realized ‘oh no, I’m going down a one-way street,” he said. “And I’m hit faster than I can even think”.
“I should have never ran a red light,” he continued. “But that was just a mistake on my part. But the big thing we’re here for today is the hit-and-run. The fact that [DeGise] just drove away, that’s what I’m worried about.”
Before footage of the incident was publicized, DeGise had acknowledged the incident and said that she was “thankful that no one was seriously hurt” and was issued traffic summons, but has not made any other comments on it herself since then.
Her spokesman, Phil Swibinski, said that she “fully intends to speak out more when the legal process is concluded.” He did not respond for additional comments about today’s rally at the time of publication.
Since the initial CCTV footage was publicized, more surveillance footage obtained by multiple media outlets showed that DeGise did not report the incident until six hours afterwards at around 2 p.m. on the same day at the Jersey City Police Department’s West District precinct.
Police body camera footage obtained by Hudson County View also showed her on Nov. 16 of last year attempting to dispute her vehicle being towed in Hoboken due to having parked in an illegal spot and having an expired registration from 2019.
The calls for DeGise’s resignation came in after the initial CCTV footage was released. Councilmen James Solomon and Frank Gilmore, two of the council’s progressive members, have been the only people on the governing body so far to call for her resignation.
Former Councilman Chris Gadsden, who was present at today’s rally, had expressed interest in running for DeGise’s seat, though he said in an interview with the Hudson Reporter today that he’s currently focused on getting her to resign.
Who is Amy DeGise?
Amy DeGise is an at-large councilwoman currently serving her freshman term, but she has been involved in politics before then and has connections to some of the most powerful people in the county.
For one, she is the daughter a political family in Hudson County; her father, Tom DeGise, is the County Executive and considered one of the most powerful politicians in the county, and her aunt, Lois Shaw, also served as a Jersey City councilwoman in the 1970s.
She had also served as a trustee in the Jersey City Board of Education. But her profile was raised when she became the chairwoman of the powerful Hudson County Democratic Organization in 2018 after a contested battle between her and Mayor and state Sen. Brian Stack.
Her two-year term as the chair was extended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately ended in June as she was succeeded by Hudson County Board of Commissioners Chair Anthony Vaineiri.
In the beginning of 2021, DeGise was announced as a slate member with Mayor Steven Fulop for an at-large seat in the City Council elections that year. It came after then-Councilman Rolando Lavarro, once an ally with Fulop, had broken ties with him and became one his most vocal critics. DeGise ultimately went on to unseat Lavarro in November.
As DeGise faces scrutiny over leaving the scene of the accident and failing to report it in a timely way, she is not set to appear before the public until the next City Council meeting on Aug. 17.
It’s unknown if she’ll do so. Meanwhile, the calls for her resignation grow louder.