Peaceful protest and rally set for June 13 in Metuchen, councilman moves for a discussion on zoning regulations to ensure equality

PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF

METUCHEN – Another peaceful protest and rally in the wake of the events in Minneapolis is expected on June 13, which will involve high school students and the borough’s Human Relations Commission.

George 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.

Councilwoman Sheri-Rose Rubin, liaison to the Human Relations Commission, said during her comments at the Borough Council meeting on June 8 that a successful rally was held on May 31 and announced another rally for social injustice will be held at 3 p.m. on June 13 at Martin Luther King Park, 480 Middlesex Ave.

All attendees are asked to wear masks.

The rally is organized by the Metuchen Human Relations Commission, NAACP of Metuchen-Edison, student groups led by MHS4BLM (Metuchen High School for Black Lives Matter) and local organizers with Speak Up NJ. The event has been coordinated with the approval of the borough and Metuchen Police Department.

Rubin said commission members will have a table at the event to talk about their role to ensure equality and acceptance of all members of the community.

The councilwoman said the commission in collaboration with the Metuchen Public Library is putting together a virtual education program at the end of June, which will be a 60-90 minute series of different sessions on how to be a better ally.

Also, the commission, in collaboration with the library, is working on a book club of literature on anti-racism.

The mayor and council fielded some public comment on police policy reform at the meeting. Mayor Jonathan Busch said he signed Former President Barack Obama’s Mayor’s Pledge to form a commission made up of residents to help review borough policies and use of force procedures.

He said the borough’s participation in the national commitment to action will ensure the Metuchen Police Department remains one of the strongest and most compassionate departments in the state.

“If the George Floyd incident taught us anything, we can never be too careful on the way we address residents and citizens,” Busch said, adding he has been working closely with Metuchen Police Chief David Irizarry on ways the department and borough can work together on the issues of police policy reform.

Councilman Todd Pagel said in other ways to ensure equality, he moved for a conversation to begin on zoning regulations with members of the planning and zoning boards as well as the Human Relations Commission.

“I know housing stock in Metuchen there’s not much in the middle for middle income and lower income residents,” he said. “We can do more to increase our housing availability through affordable housing through other zoning measures. It’s something tangible we can do to make Metuchen a more welcoming place.”

For more information about the Human Relations Commission visit www.metuchennj.org. For more information about the mayor’s pledge visit https://www.obama.org/mayor-pledge/.