FREEHOLD – Howell Township resident Nick Hubner wanted to make a difference and to express his outrage over what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis. With that thought in mind he contacted a few friends and organized at peaceful protest on May 30.
The rally, which progressively grew, was held in an intersection of Route 9 in Freehold Township near iPlay America and a Burger King. It ran from 1 to nearly 7 p.m. and drew around 40 people.
Protests continue across the country over the death of George Floyd, 46, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer who cut off his air supply with a knee to his throat on May 25. That officer, Derek Chauvin, and three officers were fired a day later after a video of the incident went viral. Chauvin, who is white, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter days later. Protestors have been demanding charges for the other officers involved.
Protests, many of which included rioting, arson, looting and violence occurred in the days that followed in several large cities. However, there have also been many peaceful protests.
“Due to the recent event of the murder of George Floyd, we have assembled this peaceful protest to stand in solidarity with the people of Minneapolis, Denver, Louisville, Los Angeles, and anywhere else that has experienced police brutality,” Hubner said.
Hubner who is going into his junior year of college added, “I got tired of seeing what has been going on in the world and tired of seeing people in my community not doing anything about what is going on so I decided it would be good to have a peaceful protest. This is very last minute but all yesterday I was rallying to get people to come and since the virus is still here we still need to social distance so I’ve been setting up places along the sidewalk six feet apart marked with duct tape so we can all peacefully protest and not have to worry about contracting the virus.”
Gustaveo Lagoes also of Howell, knew Hubner since Middle School. “He contacted me on short notice about setting up a protest.” Lagoes had helped with a similar protest staged at the same location about two years ago.
“We were getting tired of not taking any action so we decided to come out today and show our support for George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement,” Lagoes said.
A township police officer did briefly stop by and provided a friendly reminder to be careful when entering the crosswalk and intersection for traveling cars. Many honked their horns and cheered in support throughout the afternoon.
A few of the protestors were hesitant to provide their names for this story. Aisha Battle said that while she and others were wearing their masks for safety reasons and also to protect their identity that “at the end of the day everyone can take their masks off and no one will even know you were here. When I go home, I have no mask. This is who I am every day. I don’t get to go home and take a mask off and act like this never happened.
“I’m a single parent and it is difficult seeing this repetitive behavior of aggression of officers…At the same time as a community we need to stop making excuses and justifying the behavior,” said.
She added, “as a community I think we need to begin to understand that we are all in this together and a lot of white people don’t help the situation when they deny the fact of what is happening. We have to stop saying we are all one race, the human race. The truth is we are all different. We have to accept those differences and understand those differences because then we can start to understand each other.”
“By me acknowledging that there are white, black, Asian people doesn’t make me a racist. It means I am able to use my eyes and see that we are all come from different backgrounds. When you begin to have that conversation, you begin to have a better understanding and officers will know how to deal with people in a different manner rather than thinking everyone should conform to one size fits all. We need to respect each other’s differences,” Battle said.
Malik Ali came from Brooklyn N.Y. and has family in the area. He was not only a participant in the rally but was also documenting it. He found out about the protest by having seen it while driving.
“I think that the society we live in has never healed from the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, and a lot of those inhuman thoughts, demonic thoughts that white supremacy had in the 40s – they never healed from that,” Ali said.
“It has just been passed on from generation to generation so when you see something like what happened the other day – that is the result of someone who has so much hatred and fear in him of another human being because of his complexion. That was a display of the anger and was so out of control knowing he was being filmed, he still couldn’t control himself,” Ali added.
“There has to be some form of healing on both sides because we as black people are still traumatized from slavery so we need healing but those seeds of the forefathers of those oppressors they need to be healed. You can’t have a world of injustice. A world of inhuman people and white supremacy and then one day you say, okay, here is the Civil Rights Bill everything is okay, let’s move forward.”
Ali said that it was evident that there was “a mental, spiritual, emotional wound from the oppressor. In his mind there was damage there so to say there is a Civil Rights movement, we don’t do this anymore but that wound is still there emotionally. It will still go on from generation to generation to generation and that is why in 2020 we are still in the condition we are in because there was never any healing put in place.”
Laurie Martin is an area resident who found out at 1 p.m. that a rally was going on. “I’ve been devasted by the current events and I fail to understand why the police weren’t charged the minute the video came out. I am here to express my outrage. It is better than crying on the couch.”
Martin added regarding the numerous rioting occurring in cities across the countries that “it is horrible and could have been avoided had those officers been charged when that video became available to all of us. No one would be rioting. We wouldn’t be standing here if they weren’t immediately arrested. There are many good police officers. More good than bad but the bad need to be held accountable and right away.”
Payton Mckiney, a high school senior of Freehold Township drew a picture of George Floyd and was holding it during the rally. “I am actually selling the portraits and 100% of the proceeds are going to the cause. I wanted to come out here today and support the cause so I showed up and it is nice seeing everyone here supporting it.”