NEWARK, NJ — The People’s Organization for Progress held the latest installment of its “Justice Monday” rally outside the Essex County Courthouse in downtown Newark on Monday, July 11.
According to P.O.P. Chairman Larry Hamm there was a reason for that. The Justice Monday actions are part of the advocacy group’s ongoing campaign to convince the U.S. Attorney’s Office to launch federal civil rights investigations into the police-involved shooting deaths and cases in which excessive force is used against unarmed black males in municipalities across New Jersey. Current P.O.P. causes include Abdul Kamal, who was killed by Irvington police; Kashad Ashford, who was killed by Lyndhurst police; Jerame Reid, who was killed by Bridgeton police; and 14-year-old Radazz Hearns, who was shot seven times by Trenton police – four times in the back.
The most recent rally took place in the aftermath of last week’s incidents: Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police in Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday, July 5; Philando Castile was killed by Falcon Heights, Minn., police on Wednesday, July 6; and the killing of five police officers who were
“We marched from the Essex County Courthouse to the Federal Building and back today to demand justice for Alton Sterling, who was killed in Baton, Rouge, La., and Philando Castile, who was killed outside of St. Paul, Minn., I believe. It’s very unfortunate, the death of Alton Sterling; the death of Philando Castile; the death of those Dallas police officers. This country is caught in a spiral of death, Hamm said Monday, July 11.”
He added that the targeted killing of Dallas police officers proves that the underlying circumstances, social situations and other societal factors that caused similar events to happen in the past are still in play.
“It has happened before and, unfortunately, it will happen again, because when you close the avenues for peaceful resolution of problems, you open up avenues for people who want to do violence,” said Hamm. “I want to make it clear: My sympathies go out to the families of those officers that were killed in Dallas. They wasn’t hurting nobody. They was walking along with the crowd and they were shot down and that wasn’t right.”
Hamm said, however, anyone who did not expect something to occur has not been paying attention to the growing mood in minority communities.
“I am certain no one could expect black people to just sit by as we get killed like animals in the street and not eventually retaliate when the system won’t deliver justice,” said Hamm.
Matt Williams, 84, a veteran of the Korean War and a member of P.O.P., said Hamm was right.
“Everybody’s talking about: ‘Well how does this happen?’ It’s right in your face. Every day, they’re killing black people, young people and brown people and they’re getting away with it. They’re getting away with murder. That’s why these marchers are out here and why we gotta keep on doing more.”
Williams said, “It’s time for the real police to stand up” and “do something about these few bad apples that are making all of them look bad.” He said recent events are proof that America is “a divided country” between “black and white.”
“You keep hearing ‘enough is enough,’ but why don’t you do something about it, which you can do?” asked Williams. “The system can do something about it. If they’re not doing the right thing, then fire them. I used to be in the Congress On Racial Equality in New York with James Farmer and whatnot, but I moved to New Jersey and P.O.P. is the biggest action in New Jersey. Larry Hamm is the man.”
Williams said he’s been a P.O.P. member for the last 12 years and, in that time, he, Hamm and the rest of the organization have stood up to elected officials, law enforcement and the authorities on behalf of victims such as Kamal, Hearns and now Sterling, Castile and the five Dallas police officers. Slimes Jackson, mother of Hearns, said she is glad for the P.O.P. and Justice Mondays.
“I came here to support the families that have lost their loved ones to police brutality and also to bring attention to my son’s case,” said Jackson on Monday, July 11. “I am grateful that he did survive, but the whole situation is just terrible and it could have been avoided. It was just excessive.”
Jackson said she had watched both videos from the Sterling and Castile incidents and said they show why the P.O.P. and the weekly Justice Monday protests are necessary.
“I watched both of those videos and it’s overwhelming; it’s so sad,” said Jackson.
Hamm said he would like U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman to officially open investigations into the deaths of Kamal, Ashford, Reid and the attack on Hearns.
“The thing we have to build is a movement for social transformation to finish Dr. King’s work,” said Hamm. “We are really, really backward, compared to other modern, industrial countries, on almost every issue.”