ANALYSIS: The Tammy Murphy Story

MORRISTOWN – Thousands of women – and men – had just finished marching to the historic Morristown Green and now it was time for the speeches.

This normally is predictable fare, but the state’s new First Lady, Tammy Murphy, captivated the audience with a poignant reminiscence of what happened to her three decades ago while in college. 

She said she was sexually assaulted.

The First Lady described how she took a wooded path on campus one evening when a man dragged her into the bushes. As he struggled to take off her clothes, she said she screamed and eventually bit the man as he tried to put a crabapple in her mouth to keep her quiet. Ultimately, she said she ran half naked into a nearby fraternity house whose members called police. 

Murphy said her attacker eventually was arrested and jailed, but that took years, She didn’t identify the college, but her biography says Tammy Murphy attended the University of Virginia.

This was not your usual “Me Too” moment by any stretch, but its meaning was quite clear. The right of women to be free from sexual assault is perhaps the most prominent women’s issue of all. 

The first women’s marches last year in New Jersey and throughout the nation were spurred by the election of Donald Trump as president. It’s no coincidence that the original march occurred Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Trump took the oath of office. 

The growing “Me Too” movement fueled by a year of lurid tales of influential men abusing women gave this year’s marches a new and perhaps broader focus. After all, there’s nothing liberal or conservative about opposing sexual assault.

This is not to say that the Morristown march did not include the typical espousing of various left wing issues, including support for immigrants, the environment and gun control.

What was pleasing to Democrats was the joining of various special interest groups into a solid wave of people marching through the heart of Republican Morris County, chanting, signing songs and holding such signs as “Dissent is Patriotic,” “We Persist, We Resist,” and “Make Change.” And of course there were others too vulgar to be quoted here.  

Tim Dougherty, Morristown’s Democratic mayor, addressed the crowd from the steps of Town Hall before the march began.

“I hope today’s march serves as a reminder of what can be accomplished together,” he said. 

The mayor said he’s proud that Morristown welcomes and embraces diversity. That, he said, has not always been the case. 

That point may have been lost on most in the crowd, but local observers saw a reference to former Mayor Donald Cresitello, who supported cracking down on so-called day laborers, mostly Hispanic men who “shape-up,” each morning on street corners looking for work. Dougherty defeated Cresitello in a bitter 2009 Democratic primary. 

But this day wasn’t about rehashing old political scores; it really was a celebration of liberal philosophy. 

A group marching behind a banner reading, “Chatham Moms For Change,” chanted about welcoming immigrants, not fearing them. A man from Parsippany who would only give his name as Howard said he was there because the government has become a plutocracy. Amy Ipp of Livingston was there as an active member of “N.J. 11th For Change,” a group dedicated to defeating Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-Morris, this fall.

That election clearly was on the mind of Charles “Chip” Robinson, the chair of the Morris County Democratic Committee. 

As he trudged up South Street, Robinson marveled at the thousands walking ahead and behind him. 

He said he originally thought such a march would draw 500 or so people, but then realized it would be wise to add “another zero” to the estimate.

Robinson said he’s confident the enthusiasm Democrats and liberal groups are showing is going to lead to big victories in the midterm elections. 

That was certainly the tone struck by Gov, Phil Murphy.

“God knows, we will have a wave this year (for) Congress and beyond,” he said from a podium set-up on the Green. 

The governor also said he had a message for the president.

“We’re not going away. We must engage and we will engage.” 

Few can quibble with that.

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