IRVINGTON – This Essex County city came together on Sunday to stamp on the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and police brutality, with Mayor Tony Vauss in the vanguard, and the Rev. Al Sharpton in from out of town at his side in the street.
“The message we wanted to deliver was ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a symbol of their lives mattering,” said the mayor, referring to the under siege Black youth of America. “We wanted to memorialize the kids, who sometimes seem to think their lives don’t matter.”
The masked crowd in the city’s civic center included U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10), Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, state Senator Ronad L. Rice (D-28), and former Governor James McGreevey.
As the headliner of the event, who signed copies of his book, Rise Up, for residents, Sharpton reminded people how
important it is for them to vote in this presidential election. “If I hit you and knock you out of your chair, that’s on me,” said Sharpton, himself a former presidential candidate. “But if a week later I come back and you’re on the floor, that’s on you.”
The ceremony included recitations of the names of people who lost their lives to COVID-19, and the names of those who have died as a consequence of police brutality.
“The whole community was out there, some of them laughing and some crying,” Vauss told InsiderNJ. “Now, more than ever, since the beginning of this year, as we get closer to the second wave [of COVID], we want everyone to know not to take your foot off the pedal.”
Volunteers led a voter registration drive at the event. People also had the opportunity to join Sharpton’s National Action Network. Politics crackled in the autumn air. “I supported Vice President Biden early, before Kamala Harris, and I definitely support the ticket of Biden and Senator Harris,” said Vauss. “Democracy is on the ballot. It’s not Republican or Democratic, it’s values for the country and for the law. The current president has no values for either one, and unless we vote him out of office, there will be a stain on this country for generations.
“I looked at the debate, and I concluded that if you are still undecided after then debate then you’re looking for a reason to vote for Trump,” the mayor added. “That’s not the image we want to show our children.”
He acknowledged being routinely frustrated by the media, which he said focuses on the president’s antics instead of substance. The events of the days subsequent to the debate underscored the need for new presidential leadership, the mayor argued.
“The audacity of Trump and his followers making fun of those, like Biden, who wear a mask, when he did not do the proper thing,” Vauss said. “It’s shameful to put your life at risk and the lives of people at rallies and fundraisers and secret service people at risk, for spectacle. Where do I begin and end at the things this president has done? Will have 30 days of antics, and then the antics of one who will try to hold onto power after he has lost.
“I expect a large turnout in my community,” added the mayor, the leader of Team Irvington Strong. “Despite all the obstacles [including the president’s denigration of the vote-by-mail election process], I expect close to Obama turnout because people know the score, and they know that Vice President Biden is a person who cares, and who will do right by this city, by this county, this state, and this country.”