The Rev. Ronald Owens will lead commission to review police policies in Metuchen, human relations commission continues community outreach

PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF

METUCHEN – The Metuchen Human Relations Commission is working on a number of projects in its continued efforts for the borough to always remain open, accepting and inclusive.

“It is a very impactful time for the community around the issues of equality and inclusion,” Councilwoman Sheri-Rose Rubin, liaison to the Human Relations Commission (HRC), said at a council meeting on June 22.

The next event is HRC’s collaboration with the Metuchen Public Library for a book club lecture series at 7 p.m. on July 28 via Zoom.

The book club will feature “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. The audiobook is available for Metuchen library cardholders at www.hoopladigital.com for free. Oluo will discuss and answer questions for readers during the book club. In her book, Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing issues of privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement and the “N” word.

Rubin said many residents attended the recent peaceful protests on June 13 and May 31.

The HRC organized a peaceful protest and rally for social justice on June 13 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park with NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) of Metuchen-Edison, student groups led by MHS4BLM (Metuchen High School for Black Lives Matter) and local organizers with Speak Up NJ. The event was coordinated with the approval of the borough and Metuchen Police Department.

The event included statements from local community organizers, students and borough officials and information stations with voter registration.

The first event was held on May 31 with the support of the NAACP and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, which drew 300 people.

The rallies were held in response to the events in Minneapolis. 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.

Following the rallies, HRC held two community discussion series via Zoom. On June 24, the topic discussion was “How to be a better ally to our black neighbors” and on June 29, the topic discussion was “How to be a better ally to our LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) neighbors”.

Mayor Jonathan Busch said the rallies were incredibly moving. He noted since he became mayor in 2017, there have been five rallies on national topics including race and immigration in the borough.

On June 3, Busch 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 he has been working with Metuchen Police Chief David Irizarry on ways the department and borough can work together on the issues of police policy reform.

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 has said.

The mayor said Rev. Ronald Owens, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, will lead the commission. He said more information about the commission will be announced in the next few weeks.

For more information contact the HRC at HumanRelations@metuchen.com or visit the commission’s social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.