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Huge Number Of NJ Protests Peaceful, Powerful, Only Trenton, Atlantic City Get Riotous

Camden County Police Chief Joseph Wysocki with protesters in Camden. Photo Credit: Camden County PD
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. at a Monday news conference. Photo Credit: Facebook/ Screengrab

Nearly all of the protests in New Jersey this weekend over the death of George Floyd were peaceful -- with authorities joining the demonstrators to help underscore their message, although were damaging enough to steal the spotlight.

What had been a peaceful protest that included police officers kneeling in solidarity in Trenton later erupted into more than 1,000 rioters rampaging through downtown, throwing bricks at officers, setting a police car on fire and looting businesses.

The same was true in Atlantic City, which Mayor Marty Small  was "under siege" Sunday by those who took advantage of the situation. 

It was a stark contrast to several other New Jersey cities over the weekend, where police and local officials helped demonstrators peacefully spread their message: 

  • Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined a crowd of 5,000 or so gathered around a statute of Abraham Lincoln in front of the city courthouse;
  • More than 1,000 people peacefully marched from Mackay Park to the Englewood police station; 
  • Hundreds of cars in a "funeral procession" for Floyd and others stretched from the Morristown High School parking lot to the Morristown Green;
  • Camden County Police Chief Joe Wysocki even helped carry a sign at the front of a Camden march, wearing his uniform and a protective mask while flashing the peace sign.

Other peaceful demonstrations were held in Paterson, Jersey City,  Freehold, Long Branch, Haddonfield and Franklin in Somerset County.

"The pain associated with this movement is real," Gov. Phil Murphy, during a Monday afternoon news briefing, said, "Systemic racism is real. The need for change and equal justice for black and brown communities is real. This is a transformational moment."

Although authorities blamed outside agitators for instigating the violence in Trenton and Atlantic City, they noted that it was all it took for several locals to join in.

The violence in the two cities produced evening curfews.

Small said Atlantic City's 7 p.m. curfew will continue until next Monday.

"It will be enforced by time," Small said.

"Atlantic City has had a lot of embarrassments," the mayor said. "This one is at the very top."

"I apologize for the ignorance today," Small previously said during a livestreamed news conference Sunday night. "I'm shamed, embarrassed, hurt. Y'all set us back today."

There was something of a silver lining, he said.

"You saw Atlantic City at its worst -- and once again you see Atlantic City at its best, with people coming out to clean up," Small said Monday.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora called Sunday night's destruction in his city a "heartbreaker.”

“Thank God there were no injuries. There were attempts to loot. This has nothing to do with the conversation of police injustice," Gusciora said.

The Black Men United coalition tweeted that a protest was planned for Jersey City on Monday.  Another protest was being planned for Jersey City this Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. in front of City Hall.

More protests were also planned this week in Newark, Middletown, Carteret, Union, Hoboken, Perth Amboy, North Bergen and West Orange, among other locations.

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