All across the country, Americans are mourning the tragic and brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in the Minneapolis Police Department. George’s murder, along with Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are just the latest examples of lethal brutality against African-Americans, resulting in the expressions of anger, frustration and grief we are seeing across the streets of America today.
Along with these scenes of peaceful, non-violent protest, we have also seen disturbing images of persons joining protestors but behaving in ways that do not align with our values in fighting against police brutality and the systemic racism still ingrained in the highest institutions of our county. These images have included people who have engaged in acts of violence against police officers, arson, looting, burning police cars, destruction of public and private property and other similar acts.
While these acts of violence are undoubtedly unjustifiable, I implore all to actively consider and examine the social and structural conditions that led our country to this point. Unless we have honest conversations which translate into concrete action, racial disparities afflicting African-Americans will continue to persist. Unless we have more African-Americans in law enforcement and positions of official authority, justice will be continue to be delayed and denied. Unless we proactively address and correct the underlying causes of this murder, there will be more George Floyds in the future.
More importantly, these acts are intended, often intentionally, to undermine the legitimate voices of the vast majority of protestors who are outraged by the murder of George Floyd and a justice system that too often treats African-Americans like second class citizens. As a person of color, and as civil-rights and criminal defense attorney prior to my service as Mayor, I have witnessed discrimination, racial profiling and the inequities of our criminal justice system first-hand.
Many residents have contacted me about this topic and I feel the sense of frustration and the desire to join in protest against the murder of George Floyd and racial injustice. Today, the Hoboken Interfaith Clergy will host a “Hoboken Interfaith Clergy Vigil” where residents will be able to participate in a virtual and socially distant manner at 5 pm, broadcasted live on the City of Hoboken facebook page at facebook.com/Hoboken.
Many residents have also inquired about a protest planned this Friday in Hoboken. From speaking to the organizers, we expect the vast majority of participants will attend the protest for its intended purpose – to protest the murder of George Floyd and racial injustice. Police Chief Ken Ferrante and I want to assure everyone that the Hoboken Police Department has spent the past several days preparing for the event. The Hoboken Police Department and Office of Emergency Management are fully prepared to ensure the safety of all residents, demonstrators, and businesses.
Finally, while we see acts of misconduct from some police officers played over and over again on television, I want to commend our Hoboken Police Department for their steadfast commitment to our residents. In Hoboken we have not had a civil suit against any of our officers for excessive force or racial influenced policing in at least over six years. We have not had a criminal complaint against any of our officers for this in the same time period. This is not a coincidence. It’s a result of the proactive approach towards community policing the HPD undertakes each and every day. Thank you to Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante and all the members of the HPD who I know are pained as the rest of us and also standing against racism within our mile square city, and with George Floyd and his family.
Ravi S. Bhalla