Tensions were quickly escalating Saturday when the organizer of a peace march in Englewood and a city police officer went chest-to-chest. Then things got out of hand.
The officer was one of several who apparently were trying disperse a march early Saturday evening, repeatedly telling participants and onlookers to back up, after what appeared to be a separate incident that occurred along the route several minutes into the event.
That's when he and Ainsworth Minott faced off, video shows (see below).
Almost instantly, the officer and others push forward. Some marchers are forced to the ground in the sudden scramble.
Before the dust settles, Minott and three others are arrested.
Four videos recorded at the scene are collected here. They will be among the evidence viewed by authorities to determine what happened.
This was shot at the center of the incident:
This is another:
City police, bolstered by Bergen County sheriff’s officers, outnumbered the 15 or so participants in the "March of Black Excellence," organized by Minott, who invited people of all races and cultures to turn out “in their best attire,” marchers said.
Shortly after the walk began at Mackay Park, marchers said, Minott and The Rev. Preston Thompson of Ebenezer Baptist Church broke from the group to try and break up some kind of fight between two female civilians.
Englewood Police Chief Lawrence Suffern confirmed that the marchers were headed east on Englewood Avenue when several members ran over to help break up a fight near the corner of William Street.
"As responding officers arrived, there appears to have been a confrontation involving the march participants and law enforcement," Suffern said. "T]here were four people [who] were taken into custody."
Video shows several police officers approaching the group, with one shouting that the march was now over, apparently due to the incident.
Shouting erupts between police and the marchers as the officers try to move the group off the street, the video shows.
Then things get physical.
Three people were eventually released. One remained held.
Minott had organized what had been mostly peaceful weekly marches the past several months, except for one, in particular, in which a spectator said he was assaulted by a "man with a megaphone."
Police asked for video from the event as part of an investigation that still hasn't produced an arrest.
Mayor Michael Wildes, who attended Saturday's event, said the marches have become “a comfort and source of unity” in Englewood. The mayor said he intended to “get to the bottom” of what happened.
"Allegations of excessive force are taken very seriously," said Suffern, the police chief, adding that his department "has initiated in internal investigation."
The state Attorney General’s Office, Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and Bergen County Sheriff’s Office were expected to be interested in the results.
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