At Newark, N.J., protest: Police brutality, racism, inequality targeted

newark_0806Newark, N.J. — Several thousand people braved a hot sun and no shade in over 90-degree heat to rally and march in Newark, N.J., on July 25. They were protesting police brutality, racial injustice and economic inequality.

The majority African-American crowd, which also included Latinos/as, Asians and whites, youth and seniors, were supporting a demonstration initiated by the Newark-based People’s Organization for Progress, chaired by Larry Hamm. Delegations traveled from as far away as Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond and New York City, as well as other parts of New Jersey.

Newark is the most populated city in New Jersey with the second-highest poverty rate: 30.2 percent, based on a family of four making only $22,000 or less, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

A main theme of the march and rally was Black Lives Matter, which focused on Black women and men killed by racist terror — such as Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman, who were recently found dead in jail cells — and others who lost their lives at the hands of police in the Newark area and around the country. Family members, especially mothers of those killed by police, spoke with great emotion at the rally.

A public statement on the “Million People’s March” Facebook page from Hamm explains what motivated the march:

“Police brutality is an ongoing, growing and deadly problem in the United States of America.

“It includes the unwarranted and unjustified killing of unarmed people, the use of excessive force, the violation of peoples’ constitutional rights, racist and discriminatory practices, criminal activity, corruption and misconduct, increased militarization of police forces, and the failure of the criminal justice system to hold police accountable.

“Police brutality is not an isolated problem. It is a historical problem with roots that are deep in the social fabric of this country. It must be seen within the broader context of racial and economic injustice and inequality.

“While the victims of police brutality come from all racial groups in society, the vast majority come from African American, Latino, Native American and other communities of color. They are overwhelmingly poor and working class. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Abdul Kamal, Kashad Ashford and Rekia Boyd are among the recent victims.

“Police brutality has been and continues to be the cause of social unrest in the country. Throughout contemporary U.S. history incidents of police brutality have sparked explosive episodes of civil rebellion and unrest, with the most recent being that of Ferguson, Missouri.

“The failure of the criminal justice system to hold police officers accountable is causing a political crisis as more people discover that police brutality goes unpunished. Police kill unarmed civilians and are not even charged.

“One grand jury after another fails to indict police officers. The cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner being the most recent examples. This is perpetuating a growing belief that the criminal justice system is racist and illegitimate.

“For these reasons POP is calling a Million People’s March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, and Economic Inequality. We will march to demand an end to police brutality and justice for all of its victims, police reform, and an end to the problems of racial injustice and economic inequality which lead to police brutality.”

Photo: People’s Organization for Progress march for racial and economic justice.
Credit: Joseph Piette