OLD BRIDGE – The three Old Bridge High School students who led a peaceful protest and rally in the township didn’t know George Floyd, but felt strongly enough about the events surrounding his death in Minneapolis to want to take a stand.
Floyd, an African American man, died after Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin, a white man, knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes after pinning him to the ground during an arrest on May 25. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder on May 29. Three other officers, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, were charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder on June 3.
With the support of Old Bridge Schools Superintendent David Cittadino, the students stood and spoke loudly as they led hundreds of people, who included their peers, family, friends, school officials, township officials and police officers, from Carl Sandburg Middle School onto Route 516 towards the Old Bridge Municipal Center for a peaceful protest and rally on June 4.
The crowd chanted “No justice, no peace”, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Enough is enough” as they walked. The crowd also chanted the names of those who have recently been allegedly killed along with Floyd, including Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in March; and Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, who was allegedly killed by a white father and son as he was running through their Georgia neighborhood in February.
Many people who attended the peaceful protest and rally held signs, which read “Rest in Power George Floyd,” “Black Lives Matter,” “End Racism,” “White Silence is Violence,” “End Systemic Racism and Police Brutality,” “Stop Killing Us,” and “Racism is a Pandemic Too.”
Cittadino said in a social media post after the peaceful protest and rally, he was “proud of their student organizers and community for championing a rally for change to end racism in the shadow of the alleged murder of George Floyd and countless others.
“The speakers were poignant and powerful,” he said. “The event spread peace and love.”
Cittadino, in a video message prior to the event, said the three Old Bridge High School students reached out to educators and the police department ahead of the rally.
“Everyone in this community should celebrate that these students came forward asking ‘join us, help us, work with us because that is all we want’,” he had said, adding they would stand with the students and allow them to be heard.
Members of Old Bridge Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 127, in a social media post, thanked all of their loyal friends and supporters.
“Be assured that we will continue to perform our jobs as police officers with the utmost respect and integrity which we have always done,” the post said. “We will continue to be there for each and everyone of you in your time of need. We are not just police officers, we are humanitarians.”