TRENTON, NJ – Activists and faith leaders were arrested yesterday during a permitted demonstration at the Statehouse Annex after attempting to enter the capitol building to deliver a letter to Senate President Sweeney expressing concerns about the budget proposals currently being debated by the state legislature.
“I believe these arrests were illegal” said Bennet Zurofsky, lead council with the NJ Poor People’s Campaign. “At the time people were arrested they were doing nothing more than trying to enter the Statehouse during public hours to deliver a letter. The police had no basis from anything the demonstrators had said or done that could justify these arrests.”
Yesterday’s demonstration was part of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival, which is organizing 6 weeks of nonviolent moral fusion direct actions in Trenton and 35 state capitals across the country to address systemic poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the war economy.
“We were there to call on Senator Sweeney to introduce a moral budget, one that requires the wealthy to pay their fair share, and a budget that meets the needs of all New Jerseyans, including the nearly 1 Million people living in poverty in our state.” Said Quincy Bloxom, co-chair of the NJ Poor People’s Campaign. “Cuts to housing, healthcare and other essential services are violence against poor and working families.”
The latest ALICE data from the United Way of Northern NJ indicates that 10.5% of New Jersey residents are living at or below the federal poverty level, while another 30.5% of residents are working but unable to afford all their basic necessities like food, housing, healthcare, and transportation.
“I’ve never been denied entry to a government building during public hours” said Reverend Robin Tanner of Summit Beacon Church. “It reminded me that in the state of New Jersey, when we talk about the war economy and challenging an unjust budget that defunds social services and criminalizes our communities, the response is to not even allow us into the Statehouse. This is how our democracy is being colonized, because in actuality this is the people’s house of government.”
Participants in the demonstration who requested access to the water fountains and public restrooms were also denied entry to the Capitol building by State Police.
“I’m frustrated because we were prevented from delivering an important message to our elected representatives” said Aimee Vanduyne, member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County. “They can claim that we were causing a disruption, but we were a small, orderly group, simply trying to exercise our democratic rights.”