NEWARK, NJ — East Orange 5th Ward Councilman Mustafa Brent hosted his “One United” rally against what he said are President Donald Trump’s anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric and policies on Saturday, April 8, with the support of People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm, City Council Chairman and 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green, Orange Council President Donna K. Williams and others.
“I am Muslim today,” Hamm said, adding, “and I’m standing with them and I will continue to stand with them because remember: We too were once oppressed because of our religion. Many of us don’t know that many of us that were brought here as slaves were Muslims, but they suppressed our religion once we got here. I want to thank all the elected officials for being here today and I think their participation is a sign of the times. Whereas there might have been divisions between us in the past, the crises of the present are forcing us to collaborate and I think that is a good thing.”
That’s especially true when it comes to the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Hamm said, adding that people should not be fooled by the fact that Trump pulled proposed legislation to repeal it because they knew they did not have enough congressional votes to get it passed.
“The health care fight is not over yet,” said Hamm. “They may reintroduce it. Remember, they didn’t actually have a vote; they pulled the bill, so the bill can still be voted on, if they can reach some kind of accommodation. My understanding is they are still trying to reach some kind of an accommodation. We have to unite and fight back. That’s what we have to do.”
Brent said Hamm’s remarks about “uniting and fighting back” are precisely why he organized the rally and the reason Fahim Abedrabbo of the Clifton Board of Education came to the event to stand with them against the Trump administration and the Republican party’s “anti-democracy” policies and agenda.
“We have to be understanding of what’s going on,” said Brent on Saturday, April 8. “As long as they can keep us sensationalized with all this madness and rhetoric and keep him the fall guy and we hate one individual, we won’t begin to understand the foundation … and the principles that they’re trying to pass down in Washington, D.C., and keep it focused on race or sexual orientation and religion. And really, what it’s based upon is those that have and those that don’t. We have to be mindful of what’s going on over the last few years, where there hasn’t been a greater disparity amongst the rich and the poor ever before like it is nowadays, throughout this world and throughout this nation.”
Abedrabbo said unity and Americans standing up and uniting to defend American democracy, the American dream and the American melting pot are the only answer to the issues Brent pointed out.
“We come out here today and we walked and you see these beautiful young children out with us that walked with us. I’m a young father and I want to teach my daughter, and I know brother Mustafa Brent wants to teach his kids as well, the value of walking and talking because if you don’t walk and talk for yourself, no one is going to do that for you,” Abedrabbo said at the event. “We cannot allow history to repeat itself. We cannot allow ignorance, discrimination, hatred ruin who we are as an American country. We are America. We are a united division, with the division in terms of culture. But when we bring the melting pot together, we stay united, nobody can break that or take that from us ever. Nobody can tell us about who we are. That’s our freedom in America as Americans.”
The Rev. Louise Scott–Rountree came from Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s office to represent the city of Newark at the rally.
“I stand here today, honored with brother Bashir Akinyle of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, the People’s Organization for Progress and all of the other officials and comrades that came out to walk, to march, to rally,” Rountree said. “I often say we did not get voting rights with one march; we did not get some of the privileges we have gotten with just one meeting. It’s going to take more marches, more rallies. We cannot become silent, because the day we become silent is the day our lives start to end and that’s a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Green, an East Orange mayoral candidate, said he came out to participate in the One United event, simply because he believes it was the right thing to do and to support East Orange as a sanctuary city that opposes Trump’s push to ban immigration.
“People united will never be divided,” said Green on Saturday, April 8. “I’m here for the cause, not only as an elected official from the city of East Orange, but as someone who cares about individuals who have been in our communities and in our country for years contributing to the good, positive things that we do in our communities. I’m here because that guy who we call ‘Mr. 45’ down in Washington wants to ban folks from coming here and living here and really helping to make this country great. It’s going to take individuals on the local level coming together and uniting in group actions to really help push what we need to push, to help change the situation that’s happening in Washington.”
Orange also recently voted to become a sanctuary city and Williams, who is also an active P.O.P. member, said she came out to stand with Brent, Green, Abedrabbo, Timberlake, Hamm, Akinyle and all the rest.
“Mustafa had a thought and he said: ‘We need to do this; we need to get this rally together,’ and I, like you, need to do a couple of things and the first thing you need to do is call on Chairman Larry Hamm, so we can make sure that we go back to those in our community that have been doing this for a while,” said Williams on Saturday, April 8. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can just go to our elders and make sure that we are doing this thing right. So I encourage everybody to get with your elders and find out what they went through to get where they are today, so that we won’t forget a simple thing that’s brought us a mighty, mighty long way. So I am thankful, Mustafa, that you followed through and we got to today. It’s the first of many things to come that we’re going to do, to continue to educate ourselves and make sure that we are empowered.”