STAFFORD – They came by the hundreds to protest against racism and to support blacks who have died in police custody.
The participants gathered near the Mallard Island Yacht Club here on the morning of June 6 before they hit the sidewalks near the Dorland J. Henderson Bridge over Manahawkin Bay.
Stafford Township police called the event a “peaceful march.”
“We have no major incidents to report,” police posted on the department’s Facebook page. “Our local organizers worked incredibly well with our department, and all of the estimated 1,500(+) marchers were respectful and genuine. To all of our law enforcement partners who assisted us today, a special thank you to you as well!!”
Many marchers wore T-shirts to protest. “End police brutality. Black lives matter. Color is not a crime. Black lives matter.”
Even a cocker spaniel marching with one family had a shirt with “I can’t breathe” printed on the front.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer also attended the event with some of his employees.
“Great job by both Laura Esposito for organizing the event and great job by Stafford Police Department for keeping everyone safe,” he wrote on the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Facebook page.
Schneider Juste – one of the event organizers – recently attended a demonstration in Asbury Park and was so impressed he decided to help put one together for Stafford/Long Beach Island.
“You want to make a change,” said Juste, a recent Southern Regional High School graduate. “You have to start in your own backyard.”
The event began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m. Drivers on nearby Route 72 honked at the marchers to support them.
It was one of many held throughout New Jersey and the United States to protest the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Minnesota man who died recently after Minneapolis police pinned him on the ground. One cop kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. A deli employee had dialed 911 because he thought Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.
The event was also organized by Laura Esposito and Olivia Sattan, who are also Southern Regional graduates.