On Monday, Nov. 7, the People’s Organization for Progress (P.O.P.) continued its ‘Justice Monday’ protests at the Peter Rodino Federal Building acknowledging Black Solidarity Day.
Conceptualized by the late Brooklyn-based Panamanian scholar activist Carlos Russell, Black Solidarity Day was launched in 1969 as a Day of Absence to consolidate the Black Vote on the Monday before Election Day.
Protesters condemned the New Jersey attorney general’s decision last week to exonerate the officer who killed Hasani Best in a mental health crisis in August 2020. They also condemned the Town of Newton’s refusal to acknowledge the service of Major Gulia Dale III in a ceremony of recognition of resident veterans this past Saturday. Dale, who was a recently retired lifetime highly decorated veteran, was killed in a mental health facility by Newton police officers last Fourth of July. One of the officers involved in the incident, Steven Kneidl, was acknowledged.
“Why couldn’t a 42-year decorated Black vet be acknowledged in a veterans’ service,” said P.O.P. leader Lawrence Hamm. “Because he was killed by the police in a mental health crisis. They should’ve made a special point to not only mention Major Dale, but to look at what vets like him go through. What they did instead, in ignoring him as if his service and his life didn’t matter, is almost like killing him all over again.”
P.O.P. hosted 300 Monday protests that were originally launched in February of 2016 to honor the birth of the Sit-in Movement of Black college students opening a new wave of the Civil Rights Movement in February 1960 and to spotlight New Jersey’s victims on police brutality.
At that time, the protests centered on the cases of Abdul Kamal killed in Irvington, of Jerome Reid killed in Bridgeton, of Kashad Ashford killed in Lyndhurst and of Radazz Hearns shot in Trenton. Hearns, only a teen at the time, survived his encounter.
Since then, New Jersey has seen the loss of Jameek Lowery in police custody in Paterson, whose death contributed to the signing of the Independent Prosecutor’s Bill into law, Darryl Fuqua, killed by Bridgeton police, Maurice Gordon killed by a NJ State Trooper just before George Floyd, the previously mentioned Major Gulia Dale, Hasani Best by Asbury Park police, and most recently Thelonious McKnight by police in Paterson.