Yesterday, a large group of New Jerseyans marched in solidarity with social justice protestors against police brutality and systemic racism, demanding justice for friends, neighbors, community organizer(s), and leader(s), after police escalation and arrest on Saturday, October 24th, 2020.
Ainsworth Minott - Press Conference & Black Excellence March -
October 31st, 2020. Photo/Alie Pierce
In video footage circulating social media since the event, a small group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators and a pastor is seen being physically confronted by a large cadre of officers not only from Englewood, NJ, but the Bergen County Sheriff's Office and other jurisdictions. Demonstrators appear to be pushed, and in some cases pinned to the pavement.
The scenes witnessed by the community were ugly, unnecessary and they should most definitely provoke a thorough review of police conduct by the state attorney general, Gurbir Grewal.
Excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest.
Englewood NJ, Englewood Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 216 issued a press release statement blasting Englewood Mayor, Michael Wildes of political grandstanding. In the statement the city’s police union calls the use of force by officers “appropriate and completely necessary.”
The PBA statement claims the organizers “chose to interfere with an active investigation and interject themselves into the situation, “but welcomed and encouraged outside investigation into the situation.”
The union continued , “Our officers respond to dangerous calls on a regular basis, and we do so without regard for our own safety. We make difficult decisions based on limited information, in split-second time,”, “Our officers will not be intimidated by false accusations in a rush to judgment before all the facts have been considered.” Protests resulting in ugly and unnecessary confrontation as the ones witnessed must prompt a dialogue on systemic racism, but ‘it’s going to be uncomfortable.’ This conversation, this dialog has to happen in the open between the residents of Englewood, NJ, the Mayor, community leaders, advocates and activists of this community. And this needs to be done not because it’s ‘fashionable’ or a ‘political statement.’ This needs to be done in order to heal this community, because everyone is tired of protesting for basic human rights.
Racial divisiveness continues to manifest itself in our state and communities, though sometimes it can be more subtle. Take yesterday for example - The Black Lives Matter protestors were marching in the same area of the City in need of racial justice more than any other places in Englewood, NJ. One could see which side cared about the Black Lives Matter movement and which side couldn't embrace it.
To the side of Englewood, NJ who doesn’t want a better, more equal world, where justice exists and not simply as a slogan, it’s worth attending a Black Lives Matter rally. If you can attend a protest on a weekend, do. See for yourself what is genuinely being fought for. Black Lives Matter isn’t a political party, or a viral brand. As a global movement, it is there for all, and everyone should see what they have at stake. Ultimately, it’s about changing everyone's futures for the better.
The Mayor should form a committee on racial and social justice to foster conversation. Englewood, NJ residents should be able to trust and expect that government and law enforcement exist to do good and keep their communities safe, and in return police officers need to have their rights to have their voices heard.
The Black Lives Matter movement - is about real lives being ruined, or taken away too soon. Let’s make sure to start this conversation, this dialogue, before this community repeats Saturday’s events. Or worse.
Editor's note: On November 1st, 2020, Michael Wildes, Mayor City of Englewood, NJ approached the writer with the following e-mailed statement: “As a former Federal Prosecutor (EDNY, 1989-1993) and Auxiliary Police Officer (NYPD, 1982-1992), I have a deep respect for our law enforcement professionals. Each day, I am reminded of the nobility of this profession, and have ingrained that sentiment in my children, to recognize and be thankful for that service. I have consistently voiced my support for our local police leadership, and have expressed my gratitude for the officers who have attended to our safety at all of the protests activities that have occurred. The recent Englewood PBA press release supports my assessment that the situation warrants an independent investigation. Social justice, as well as the rights and safety of both our residents and our law enforcement professionals are serious matters, and there is no “playing” of any sides happening here. There is no political gain to be had. Either we face these issues head on, or we all lose. Residents as well as outsiders and media look to the Mayor for answers in situations such as these. It’s my job to be attentive to all sides of any issue in our City, and to be responsive in representing our City. I will continue to do so, irrespective of criticism from any party.”