On May 30, 2020 a crowd of about 3,500 people gathered at the Lincoln statue in the Essex County Historic Courthouse Plaza as Lawrence Hamm, founder of People’s Organization for Progress (POP) and Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka spoke passionately about systemic and endemic police brutality, especially toward black men.
“Newark has been here. For four days in 1967, this city went up in flames,” said Mayor Baraka, “We were injured. And we still haven’t recovered from the wounds socially, economically, or politically.”
In recounting historical police violence against African-Americans, Mayor Baraka explained that police brutality was “deeply personal” to his family. “There is a famous picture of my father — blood coming down his face, chained to a wheelchair in the hospital,” he said. “And the cop who clubbed him was a classmate of his at Barringer High.
“We don’t want to let them change the narrative,” the Mayor said. “We want the focus to remain on police brutality. We want the focus to stay on what happened to George Floyd, not what happened in the streets after.”
At the direction of Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose, police presence was minimal during the march, and Newark officers were present only to direct traffic.
With Newark police supplying traffic control, the marchers, led by Baraka and Hamm, began a slow walk to City Hall, then back again, in a parade of forceful but controlled outrage holding signs and chanting exactly the kind of protest Mayor Baraka and Larry Hamm wanted – peaceful.