The ripples from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 spread to Ewing Township on several occasions over the past month.
On June 8, several hundred people gathered at Moody Park to protest the treatment of Black people in America by law enforcement.
They also decried the country’s history of racism and discrimination in an effort to bring about more equitable treatment of all minorities.
“We’ve been dealing with these issues for a long time.” Ewing Council president Kevin Baxter, told the crowd. “We started off, unfortunately, with slavery. We’ve been through reconstruction, Jim Crow, Rodney King, Hurricane Katrina—do you remember how they treated us with Katrina?.. And now George Floyd.”
Baxter suffers from sickle cell disease, which makes him more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications. He said that it was dangerous for him to be at the rally, but that his presence there showed how important he feels the issue is.
“I’m willing to risk my life, because they’re taking people’s lives every day,” he said. “If they don’t change this, it will be more than my life that will be gone. We’ll all be gone.”
He said that the movement shouldn’t only be focusing on the treatment of Black people by police. They also need to look at inequality in the education system.
“Let’s challenge the inadequacies in the school district,” he said.
“I want us to also challenge the wealth disparity. Let’s start holding people accountable. Why can’t I get that job? I’m just as qualified.”
Another rally was held 10 days later at the township municipal building on June 18 at which officials, including Mayor Bert Steinmann spoke.
“In the past several weeks, we have seen our neighbors and communities in New Jersey and throughout the country demonstrating their grief, trauma, pain and anger for the disturbing and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Aubry and the many other victims of racism and violence,” Steinmann said.
He added that the township has long history of being one of the most diverse towns in the state.
“We all want Ewing to be a community that is a safe and desirable place to live, work, worship, raise a family and where our children can grow and play without fear.”
He said the township will not tolerate the type of police conduct that was seen in Minneapolis, Atlanta and other places.
“The actions of these officers are abhorrent and contrary not only to the values of the Ewing Police Department, but to everyone in law enforcement who swore an oath to protect and serve their communities,” Steinmann said.
He said that his administration is working with the police to review and update the department’s policies, procedures and training in an effort to ensure that its enforcement practices are “fair, impartial, transparent and just.”
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A planned March on June 12, which was reported to go from Parkway School to Ewing High School, was cancelled according to a police post on Facebook.
The post reiterated the department’s commitment to the right to free speech and peaceful assembly.
“We have been in contact with the organizers for today’s march and have worked with them to help ensure a safe and efficient protest just as we did with the organizers of Moody Park,” said the post. “We have been informed by the organizers that they chose to postpone today’s march and will be planning for one in the near future. As we have done and will continue to do, we will assist them in any way we can when that time comes.”
The peaceful events followed a brief period where there was an outbreak of violence and looting on May 31 in Trenton and areas in the towns bordering the city.
As a result, a number of Mercer County towns, including Ewing, declared curfews as a result of looting and destruction of property. The 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Ewing curfew was in effect from June 1 to 3.