Princeton resident Shariese Katrell wanted to make certain black and brown voices were being heard when she organized a social justice rally in Princeton on June 13.
The social justice rally spearheaded by Katrell was the latest protest to take place in the municipality. The rally was on the grounds of Community Park South and was a part of a weekend of protests continuing across the state honoring the lives of of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
“I felt that black voices were not being heard. I hope people took away from today that black people and minorities have been marginalized and that systemic racism still lives in communities, especially Princeton,” Katrell said. “I hope residents realize neighbors are diverse and we live in a diverse community. We should be looking at each other as human beings. We should not judge anyone. We just should not judge on people’s economic background or their race.”
Katrell’s rally focused on a call to action for police reforms, getting to know neighbors and urging attendees to vote in the coming primary and general elections.
“Everyone here should take the time to vote and vote for change. Because a federal bill needs to be created for police officers where it is three strikes and they’re out and they cannot be rehired again,” she said. “I see myself as a future political activist in that area. Demonstrations are key as we push forward.”
Experiences were discussed and explained as speeches were heard by attendees gathered around the park benches. Close to a hundred people attended the rally at Community Park South ranging in age, race and nationalities.
“I feel like I have to do more than I am doing to support my brothers and sisters who are being oppressed in every way. I hope more demonstrations take place all the way into November,” said Monica Gallagher of Skillman. “For me I am listening to my brothers and sisters in a way that I haven’t and I am reaching out to hear their stories so personally and intimately. I hope the community is also listening.”
Katrell was not approved for a march down the streets of Princeton, so instead protesters would shout “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter” as they marched around the sitting area in the park.
“They refused to let me march in the street but I did not let them stop me. I still reached out to the township for a permit because I wanted to do this correctly, not illegally, so there would not be stigma with a black Princeton woman organizing something like this,” she added. “I feel we are at a small point of change we still have a long way to go, because there are still issues of hate, privilege and power even in Princeton. We all have to look at people as human.”
Attendees included individuals and families not just in Princeton but surrounding townships such as West Windsor Township, Montgomery Township and even Morris Plains.
“I felt like this was the right place to be. I hope we move forward as one nation and one people,” said Greg Boliti of Morris Plains. “I hope the demonstrations like today and across the country can bring about positive change.”