MORRIS TWP. – The sun was setting and the crowd was congregating on Woodland Avenue Saturday night on the grounds of the municipal complex.
Some drove in a caravan from Morristown High School a few miles away; others walked from the staging area in the parking lot.
You heard the chants before you saw the people – “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Say His Name, George Floyd.”
Then the signs became visible and the young woman leading the procession carried a placard with a simple message – “F… the Police.”
Was this going to get out of hand?
Enter T’anna Kimbrough, one of the protest organizers.
As protesters arrived via vehicle and on foot, Kimbrough commanded the crowdf’s attention.
Standing in the street, she shouted. “We can make a point, but we will be peaceful. Here in Morristown, we do it right.”
And with that, any hint of trouble – like the violence we’ve seen elsewhere – vanished.
Instead, the 300 or so people on hand amassed in a field across from the police station for a peaceful vigil. Candles were lit; clergy gave spiritual messages.
The principal speaker was Larry Hamm, a veteran of such demonstrations. It was a busy day for the 66-year-old Hamm who earlier Saturday helped lead a George Floyd-related protest in Newark.
Hamm got right to his point, telling the racially-diverse crowd that he no longer recognizes America. And looking ahead – presumably to the presidential election – Hamm said he sees two possible paths;
democracy or fascism.
He also remarked about what he clearly considers New Jersey’s sordid racial history by informing, or perhaps reminding, some in the crowd that Abe Lincoln never carried the Garden State.
The sun was gone now and a half-moon in a clear sky provided a theatrical touch. Other speakers urged the crowd to never give up their fight for justice. And when it was mentioned that the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck has been arrested, there were cheers all around.
Back where it all began in the high school parking lot, those preparing to march or drive to the vigil suggested that the killing of Floyd was a tipping point in a continuing battle over police brutality.
“Enough,” is how one put it.
Sue Rosenthal, a member of the Morris County Human Relations Committee, was not surprised at the robust turnout. She said Morristown always has been a “melting pot” where people tend to get along and support each other.
Another man said he recalled his father travelling to D.C. for the famous march on Washington in 1963. He said he was seven at the time.
“It’s 57 years later and now I’m still marching,” he said.
And in the best tradition of Morris County – peacefully.