NEWARK, NJ — People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm and his group of grassroots activists spent Halloween holding their 40th consecutive Justice Monday protest rally in front of the Peter Rodino Federal Building on Broad Street in downtown Newark, despite the fact that U.S. Attorney General for New Jersey Paul Fishman recently decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into the police-involved shooting death of Jerame Reid, an issue the group has focussed on during the past year.
And despite the serious nature of the campaign, Hamm said some members of the People’s Organization for Progress got into the Halloween spirit.
“Sheila Reid was dressed up and she had candy for children who walked by and many children stopped and got her candy,” said Hamm on Tuesday, Nov. 1. “And while they were stopped getting candy, some of them actually started chanting along with us. It was our 40th week and that’s very significant that we’ve been able to sustain these protests for such a long period, since Feb. 1. And we plan to continue indefinitely to demand investigations into the shooting deaths and to demand justice for them and all the other victims of police brutality in the United States.”
The protest rally Monday, Oct. 31, took place soon after U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced she was launching her own civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York police officer who applied a fatal, illegal chokehold on a Staten Island street corner in 2014.
“Lynch is launching another investigation into Eric Garner and sending in her team from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department,” said Hamm on Monday, Oct. 31. “I think that gives us just a little more ground to stand on, in terms of demanding that she do the same thing for Jerome Reid. We sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing our complete dissatisfaction with the decision by U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman not to bring charges against the officers in the Jerame Reid shooting. We cannot accept the decision by the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey not to bring charges against the officer, Braheme Days, that killed him.”
According to Hamm, Lynch has received the latest request from the People’s Organization for Progress, which he sent via certified mail.
“So we have appealed to a higher authority but, when Loretta Lynch was here in Newark a little less than a month ago, I gave the letter to her,” said Hamm on Tuesday, Nov. 1. “I put it in her hand, when the meeting was held with her at the Newark Public Library at the beginning of October. We’re waiting for a response from the U.S. attorney general. We call upon Lynch to reopen the investigation and the Justice Department to launch a federal civil rights investigation.”
Hamm said he remains cautiously optimistic that Lynch and the federal government will eventually do the right thing when it comes to Reid’s cases and other similar cases in New Jersey. After all, he said, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s ever happened.
“To be truthful, I’m not putting too much hope in the Justice Department, because the record is not great in bringing charges against these officers,” said Hamm. “The one outstanding exception was the Earl Faison case in Orange, where five officers got indicted and eventually went to jail. They handled that case relatively well. We consider that case to still be open, because they didn’t charge those officers with murder.”
The five officers indicted and jailed for Faison’s death, after he was mistakenly accused of being involved in the death of Orange police officer Joyce Carnegie, were found guilty on conspiracy and civil rights violation charges. Hamm said they should have been charged with murder.
“The conspiracy was them trying to cover it up and the civil rights violation was the torture,” said Hamm on Tuesday, Nov. 1. “They tortured that man. Overall, the record is not good on law enforcement bringing charges against police officers. The state of New Jersey never even launched an investigation. They closed the case. Had it not been for the feds, there would not have been even a modicum of justice for Earl Faison.”
“When you look at the total number of cases that have occurred … the result is miniscule,” Hamm said. “If you look at last year, there were 1,135 killings; that’s not even shootings. There were many, many more shootings. … The number is so big that people might not even believe it on face value. They’re already on course to exceed that number this year. They already have 900 this year. With 60 days left, we’ll probably get close to 1,000 this year, too. I hope not.”