SEASIDE PARK – A recent Black Lives Matter march began on the borough boardwalk and ended up at a Seaside Heights intersection with a few tense moments.
More than 50 participants of a Black Lives Matter march set off on a Saturday afternoon to once again draw attention to the need for racial equality and to call out incidents of police brutality that have taken place in areas of the country.
McKala McBride, 11, of Mercerville was a speaker at the event. “This is my ninth protest. I need everyone over the age of 18 to go out and vote and exercise your voice so that when I am 18 or 25 I don’t have to protest again. My life matters. Please do the work so I won’t have these fears as I grow up.”
Another speaker who was identified as Rostafa was draped in an American flag that featured a peace symbol in place of white stars. “To all our white brothers and sisters that are here, thank you. That also means you all need to work harder, work smarter. Keep us all motivated, walk tall, walk strong, walk forward.”
Rostafa sang a song he wrote in protest regarding George Floyd’s death.
Dorothy Lin came from Freehold for the event with her 11-year-old daughter and her daughter’s friend to take part in the march. “I think people who were in the middle about this are moving to one side or the other.”
“I’m really saddened and disappointed to see people opposing the idea that black lives matter. I think Trump is definitely fanning the flames of hatred. Trump refuses to talk about police brutality,” Lin said.
During the march some protesters stopped outside of a local pizzeria, claiming the owners there had made jokes during the last protest on the boardwalk.
A short time later the march moved off the boardwalk onto Sherman Avenue and up to the Seaside Heights Police Department. The protest stopped in the middle of the intersection temporarily blocking traffic.
One driver heading south attempted to cross their path but stopped. She leaned on the horn to attempt to get by. She gave up and turned around as protestors approached her car.
The protestors moved out of the intersection and returned to their starting point near the parking lot in Seaside Park.
During a previous rally held on August 15, protestor Jamaal Holmes, 28, of Toms River was arrested for allegedly striking a 68-year-old man, knocking him off his bicycle but witnesses at the march said the senior citizen confronted Holmes and tried to remove his mask.
Holmes wore the same “V For Vendetta” mask he donned on August 15 during the latest rally, which started in the same location.
Alyson Hastings of Little Egg Harbor was present at both rallies and was one of the organizers of the most recent one. She witnessed what occurred on August 15 and described the man who confronted Holmes as “visibly drunk.” She accused Seaside Heights police of lying saying “they had a warrant even though they did not.”
Holmes is being represented by Hainesport Attorney Brenda Maneri of the Sitzler and Sitzler Law Firm and stated on August 17 that she was confident Holmes would be cleared of all charges. “Jamaal Holmes was twice accosted by a counter-demonstrator and acted in self-defense.”
Holmes said he had learned that the charges will be dropped and as the matter had been reviewed by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. “I may speak today, particularly because of what happened last time. My attorneys have informed me that the Prosecutor’s Office is dismissing the complaint.”
“It is unfortunate that things like that happen not only here but across the country. Statements like this have to be made especially in towns like Seaside Heights where they think they are above the law,” Holmes said.
As to whether he saw any progress in the racial equality discussion with the advent of so many rallies and dialogues that have occurred since May, Holmes noted, “for the most part I see the Prosecutor’s Office as a whole trying to support the movement. I see (Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley) Billhimer trying to make sure that this BLM movement in Ocean County is recognized and respected and picking up the slack of what Seaside left off. That speaks volumes itself.”
He added, “I don’t think major progress is being made because across the country we still see incidents like Jacob Blake. It is unfortunate that as black people in America we have to move in fear when the police are here to protect and serve.”
Jacob Blake is a black man that was shot seven times in his back by police in Kenosha, WI, in front of his children.
“Black America doesn’t feel that protection and that is the problem. I know Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy supports the BLM movement and if they really do want to make a change and make a difference out here then they need to hold accountable those who need to be held accountable for their actions and not just prosecute the public or civilians,” Holmes said.
At one point during the rally, Holmes crossed the street to confront a police officer standing outside the police station in the staff parking lot on his cell phone. He spoke to the officer using a bullhorn saying an officer had made racist comments toward him.