A peaceful rally in New Jersey’s capital city metamorphosed into two police cars getting set on fire and bank windows smashed on Sunday at the corner of West State and Broad as destruction imperiled cities around the country.
Calls from Trenton to Hamilton for assistance were met with more alarming news.
Someone had set the Walmart in that neighboring town ablaze.
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora has scheduled a 10:30 p.m. press conference with the city’s police director
to address the crisis.
“I share the outrage of injustice done to George Floyd,” the mayor said on his Facebook page. “Yesterday we had a peaceful protest. Today started out peaceful until the evening. Trenton is a diverse city but we are small enough to look out for one another. Attempts to loot businesses downtown sends a wrong message and is counterproductive. We have been working hard to move our City forward. We need to come together for positive change. Pray for our City so that we can heal the hurt and pain that has been done. We have too much work to do in the days ahead not to come together as a community.”
It started out well, by all accounts, and sources insist that one event – the rally – not be conflated with the other – mayhem. Hundreds of people earlier today participated in a peaceful show of support in Trenton for the late George Floyd, killed by police last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“I went to the rally in the afternoon and it was peaceful and I came home,” said Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson.
Destructive individuals surfaced after the justice rally, however, and that is when the trouble started.
Sources described Trenton activists clashing with activists not from the capital city, intruders crashing the scene with intentions separate from the marchers.
“It seems to be a lot of out-of-towners going from town to town and causing all kinds of trouble,” a source said.
But the seeds of the clash went deeper than that, said Trenton At-Large Councilman Jerell Blakeley, who was on the scene, telling people to please go home.
“This country is at a real crossroads,” the Councilman told InsiderNJ. “Dr. King said riots are the language of the unheard. People are feeling unheard. The fundamental question is will we hear what they have to say. This is counterproductive and unproductive but the young men and young women don’t feel heard.”
Will people listen, Blakeley asked.
“These are people who don’t have healthcare in a pandemic,” the councilman said. “These are young black and women who feel terrorized. There is a lack of trust of the police. We have a president showing he is unworthy of the office he holds. Rather than breaking the racial divide, he’s exploiting the racial divide, and exacerbating racial tensions. This is a national catastrophe.”
He quoted Frederick Douglass, who wrote:
“The American people have this to learn: that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”
“The unrest led [Gusciora] to put an immediate curfew in place until 8 a.m. Monday, the city said. City officials planned to hold a news conference late Sunday, but did not immediately release more information.”
Planet Princeton Founding Editor Krystal Knapp offered the following details in her Sunday evening report:
“Protesters kicked off the rally at 3 p.m. in front of the State House, marching around the block before giving speeches. They then placed candles on the steps of a pavilion next to the State House Annex and took to the streets again, heading down West State Street and then East State Street to Clinton Avenue. They marched to the main police station in Trenton, and a few protesters threw stones at the building. Others called for calm and the situation was quickly diffused, but protesters wanted some kind of acknowledgment from the police and public officials about the problem of racism in law enforcement. They pointed to the police chief of Camden as a leader and role model for police for marching with residents on Saturday. Then they convinced officers to take a knee, though some officers refused and walked away. By about 5 p.m., the crowds had dispersed and a small group remained at the police station. Back at the State House, only a dozen or so people remained, saying their goodbyes to friends and then heading home.
“The peaceful protest that drew thousands to downtown Trenton was organized by a handful of students and young people, including Jayda Parker, a Lawrence High graduate who was mentored by local activist Darren Freedom Green when she was a teen. Parker and her friends thought it was important to hold a peaceful rally to tell officials that racism and police brutality will not be tolerated. They said they hoped the rally Sunday would be the first of many events to keep the pressure on officials to push for systemic change.”