Ridgewood police arrested a young woman during a July 4th Black Lives Matter march through downtown that included a call for reparations and a sign that said "Cops are Pigs.”
A few dozen or so members of a nascent group calling itself Ridgewood 4 Black Liberation began marching through downtown on the national holiday Saturday after a speaker accused the village of being “the greatest perpetrators and examples of America’s long and bloody history of suppressing black people’s right to existence."
The marchers, many of them young women who were graduated from village schools, carried a banner that said: “BLM! PAY RWOOD REPARATIONS.”
Others held signs that bore phrase such as "Enough is Enough," “No Justice, No Peace” and "Stop White-Washing Education."
Another said: "Yeah, Sex Is Cool But Have You Ever F****d The System?"
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the village to cancel the 110th annual FOurht of July parade, along with evening entertainment that was to include fireworks.
Instead, the day featured a speech by one of the demonstrators that echoed Frederick’s Douglass’s "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" (1852).
"For many people, patriotism means a stubborn denial of black oppression and oftentimes black existence in favor of maintaining our way of life," a speaker told the crowd.
“While the village that exists as Ridgewood is an ideal image of American life in the eyes of many,” she said, “if you ask me, we are the greatest perpetrators and examples of America’s long and bloody history of suppressing black people’s right to existence."
"We are not all free!" chanted the protesters, many wearing black tops and denim shorts, as they began marching.
Ridgewood 4 Black Liberation detailed specific demands:
- remove the village’s "Eurocentric" curriculum;
- establish mandatory “anti-racist trainings” for students and staff;
- hire more black teachers and staff;
- create a “public schools resource office” for students of color.
Police Chief Jacqueline Luthcke warned the marchers that they’d be arrested if they didn’t stay on the sidewalk, keep moving and not block any streets. Her concern, she said, was for the safety of passing motorists as well as the marchers themselves.
Protester Thriamargret Bernabe, 22, of Ridgewood, was arrested when she refused orders to return to the sidewalk, Luthcke said following the march.
Bernabe "walked into the street, directly into the path of a vehicle," the chief said, then "was again told to go on the sidewalk or she would be arrested and she refused."
In response, a smaller group of marchers staged another protest at police headquarters, where Bernabe was processed and released pending a court hearing on charges of obstructing a highway or other public passage, Luthcke said.
"The Ridgewood Police Department fully supports the right of citizens to protest peacefully and safely," Luthcke said. "We also support the rights of citizens to be free from others imposing upon their civil liberties.
"I truly wanted a safe protest for all involved.”
Ridgewood for Black Liberation contended that Bernabe wasn’t blocking traffic.
Figures from the most recent U.S. Census show Ridgewood's population as:
- 82.2% white;
- 12.99% Asian;
- 5.27% Hispanic or Latino;
- 1.59% black or African American;
- 0.06% Native American;
- 0.02% Pacific Islander;
- 1.06% from other races;
- 2.06% from two or more races.
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