SOMERVILLE – The town has a history of activism, going back to Paul Robeson, who grew up here and never shirked a people power fight. Today, his fellow Scarlet Knight and fellow former football star, himself a Somerville native, again hit the streets in the lead position of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mason Robinson has been here vocally and unapologetically since the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25th. Other Black Lives Matter leaders don’t set foot in Somerville without going through him, and there was again no give in him today as he marched down Main Street at the head of a crowd of 100 activists while outdoor diners settled in for the supper hour.
“I’m from this town, no one’s going to tell me to move along,” said Robinson.
“Get a job,” someone screamed, apparently from an apartment house window, a remark aimed at the bullhorn-wielding leader at street-center.
“I work for your mother,” Robinson shot back, his voice drowned amid the cheering throng.
An earlier dustup occurred too in the vicinity of the downtown Starbuck’s when someone close to a car bedecked with a Donald Trump sign aimed another irritable comment at Robinson. But the star athlete who ran one of the fastest 100-yard dashes in New Jersey history was undeterred, even joyful as he commanded his nonviolent but no less Justice for George Floyd-impassioned troops.
“We can’t lose faith with this movement,” he said, standing in front of the historic Somerset County Courthouse. “We’ve got to continue to push. We’ve got to continue to fight. You saw what happened when we walked up and down these streets. They weren’t kind. They weren’t loving. We knew that. we know what’s going to happen. we’ve got to keep having faith and supporting one another.
“I love the fight,” Robinson said. “I appreciate the energy. You could all be home watching football; watching sports. But the lovely thing about sports right now is you can’t turn it on without seeing some type of Black Lives Matter movement. If they’re going to listen to us, we’re going to make some people feel uncomfortable.”
The group did have their mild run-ins with rivals this Sunday evening, but for the most part, they received support in the form of fist-bumps from people eating ice cream cones and even nods and thumbs up signs from those sitting outside in a pizza parlor. The Robinson-organized event went down with the participation of the police, who kept the peace and appeared to know and respect the town’s native son as they stopped traffic at intersections while he spoke.
As for the implications of the movement on the Nov. 3rd elections, the Scarlet Knight once signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said, “We’re definitely trying to get everybody to register to vote. If you have not registered to vote, make sure you register to vote. If you have not filled out the census, make sure you do that. I’m not telling you who you need to vote for, all I’m telling you is there is a certain guy who fells like he continues to need to hold our people down.
“You vote for whoever you want to vote for, but we have to make sure we do show up,” he added. “They are going to do everything they can to make it difficult for us to vote. We have to make sure we do the work.”
Next Saturday, Terrence Floyd, brother of George Floyd, is scheduled to join activists in New Brunswick Saturday.