Around 50 demonstrators gathered in Bridgeton, NJ, on Monday, December 28, 2015, almost a year to the day that Jerame Reid was gunned down by Bridgeton police. The Bridgeton rally was once again co-hosted by Walter Hudson of the National Awareness Alliance and the People’s Organization for Progress (POP). The majority of the demonstrators were local church members and family members of Reid. When I first arrived I was greeted by a very kind white Chaplin, who confused me at first with his jacket that had the police shield symbol on it. But I soon learned he was there to keep the love and peace and found it to be his job to deal with police in case things got ugly. Again, he was very nice, but it was clear he was checking to make sure I was nonviolent and didn’t provoke the police in any way. I spoke with several serious activists who came from Harlem and Philadelphia, and POP took a bus all the way from Newark, NJ, and I drove up from South Jersey.
This was my third protest in Bridgeton, and I was worried about what would happen. My first rally was on February 3, 2015, and police surrounded us and took four of us into custody to issue us tickets for “not using the sidewalk properly,” a.k.a. jay walking. I was ticketed that night after the all-white police force (excluding the black cop who killed Reid, but he wasn’t there, obviously) attempted to intimidate Walter Hudson, Lawrence Hamm, another women and myself in the back room at the station. My second rally there was February 28, when 200 gathered there, but we were met with dozens of officers in full-gear SWAT uniforms, who ended up arresting a peaceful protester after he was struck by a moving vehicle. To say the least, I didn’t expect any basic decency from this corrupt-ass police force. Perhaps the cops learned to not be as blatant in their breaking of the constitutional laws, but their presence was still unwanted.
We gathered that day on Henry Street, where Reid was shot dead the year before. Reporters snapped pictures as speeches were made by Hudson and Hamm.”We have these local prosecutor’s who aren’t even trying to indict what I call these domestic terrorists,” said Hudson. Jerame Reid’s mother also gave a moving speech about her son deserving justice. “I’m going to keep his spirit alive,” said Shelia Reid, reported NJ.com. “I’m not going to stop doing protests or marches just because. I’m going to keep doing this until we get justice.” Reid’s father-less 1-year old son was held up in front of cameras by Sean Reid. “We’ve got to have something happen with these police because they can’t keep being allowed to do this,” said Sean Reid. “To me what happened to Jerame Reid was cold-blooded murder,” said Carol Gay, 68, of Brick Township, reported the Press of Atlantic City. “I’m afraid of police and I know they’re not going to rush in and kill someone in a white neighborhood the way they do in communities of color.”
POP then led the 2-mile march to the Court House in what was sometimes a 3-person file march, but people moved around so much it wasn’t held together by the end. We marched in the street with the Chaplin’s and religious members in the back, and police squads drove behind them. We took the sidewalk when we reached the main street. It was here earlier this year that I marched on the side of the street, which resulted in my ticket. We did end up taking the streets in the February 28 rally, but that was because the action was led by Philly BLM protesters, who never let the cops kick them off their street. But since we marched on the sidewalk that day we were not harassed by police, at least not too much.
Although I am used to police taking photos of me at the Philly BLM protests, the Bridgeton police were way more obnoxious about it. Again, at the February 28 rally they sat on top of the roof across the street from us, holding up machine guns and such. This time a police truck drove right beside us as we marched the final mile on main street. One officer drove the truck as the other officer stood in the back of the truck taking photos of us. It was really annoying that they trailed us the entire time. How many photos can a guy take? He must have taken at least 500, since he continued to take photos from the truck for the entire 30-minute rally at the Cumberland County Courthouse! It felt like every time I tried to cover my face up, he would zoom in and take even more pictures. It could have been worse, but the Bridgeton Department is still the most corrupt and racist department I’ve ever encountered. Bridgeton = The New South.
Speakers at the Cumberland County Courthouse included Atlantic City activist Steve Young, chairman of the National Action Network’s South Jersey chapter, who said the grand-jury process lacks transparency. “What we get are mostly white officers getting paid to shoot black youth and more than 90 percent are called justified,” Young said. “What’s the difference between that and a lynching?” Reid’s killer was still on paid leave after not being indicted by the grand jury, which is a repetitive action seen across the country in every police shooting. Lawrence Hamm gave another moving speech at the courthouse. He denounced the actions of police from previous rallies, and gave a serious warning that this country was on the verge of exploding. “Just follow Chicago,” he warned. He said he is 62-years old and the last time he remembered the country being so explosive was in the 1960s.
Press of Atlantic City wrote: “Cumberland County paid Reid’s family $340,000 this year to settle a lawsuit Reid filed against the jail, where he said he was beaten by corrections officers in 2009. In his 2011 lawsuit, Reid said he sustained broken ribs in the beating.”