SAYREVILLE – Sayreville played host to more than 400 individuals participating in a peaceful protest on June 6 to make their feelings against racism and police brutality known.
Organized by Kiera Brown, Erene Olson and Aaliyah Wideman, all borough residents and graduates of Sayreville War Memorial High School, the protest began at 12:30 p.m. at Borough Hall on Main Street, and continued throughout the municipality. Protestors held up signs supporting racial equality and remembering lives lost due to police brutality.
A table was also set up to allow participants to register to vote if they currently were unable to do so. Participants could also take wristbands displaying the “Black Lives Matter” message.
The event followed the May 25 arrest of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Video of the arrest shows a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd was handcuffed and was face down in the street during the time Chauvin was astride him. Floyd died during the incident and Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Three other officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s arrest have been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder.
In addition to Floyd, the protest remembered the lives of other African Americans who died under violent circumstances this year, including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
The Sayreville Police Department provided support to the event, stating prior to June 6 that officers had been coordinating the event with its organizers to ensure the safety of those participating. During the event, the police guarded the protestors’ route and the department’s command staff participated in the march.
“Throughout the past several days, residents from all across America have demonstrated their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest the death of George Floyd,” representatives of the department wrote on social media. “We fully support the right of our residents to peacefully demonstrate and engage in a thoughtful and positive discussion aimed towards justice and racial equality. We want to assure our residents that the Sayreville Police Department has spent the past several days coordinating with event organizers to ensure the safety of our residents and demonstration participants.
“Rest assured the Sayreville Police Department will take every proactive measure necessary to protect demonstrators, residents and businesses, alike,” they continued. “We appreciate the cooperation of everyone involved and expect a peaceful demonstration. This has been a very difficult time in America and we are fully supportive of this very important discussion.”
Following the event, the police department representatives wrote, “The demonstration was anticipated by many with both enthusiasm and concern. What resulted was a respectful expression of feelings, emotions and social consciousness by all that participated or witnessed the protest.
“The event organizers, Kiera, Aaliyah and Erene, asked for an opportunity to publicly discuss and share their life experiences in Sayreville under the backdrop and in context to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor,” they continued. “Their self-expression was meant to be educational to those with and without any experience in racial and social injustice. All of which to be organized in collaborative fashion.
“The 400 participants, including the entire police command staff, took part in this experience and witnessed a discussion that promised and fulfilled the goal of sharing unfiltered and raw personal experiences. Much could be learned, not simply by the content of the discussion, but also from the respectful and considerate nature of those in attendance.
“We cannot and do not engage in political discussion or impugn opinions on social issues,” the department representatives wrote. “However, it is not beyond our duties and responsibilities to reconfirm our commitment to fair, equal and unbiased service to each and every member of our community.”