Bridgewater, New Jersey mall incident sparks another march and public forum

BRIDGEWATER – Activists marched to the Bridgewater Commons shopping center on Saturday, nearly a month after the police response to a scuffle sparked widespread outrage at the starkly different ways in which the two teenagers were treated.

The People’s Progress Organization led what it called a “Justice March for Z’Kye Husain”, which started at the Bridgewater Township Municipal Building.

A public community forum held on Thursday evening also covered concerns over the “recent incident at the Bridgewater Commons shopping center”.

Saturday’s protesters were accompanied by a police escort, as had been offered in advance, NJ.com reported.

Video of the police response, in which a black teenager – later identified by his family as eighth-grader Z’Kye – was tackled and handcuffed while a lighter-skinned teenager was left behind unrestrained and briefly unsupervised, has since gone viral.

“We are marching to demand that the officers who racially profiled and brutalized Z’Kye be fired, and suspended immediately pending the outcome of the Attorney General’s investigation,” POP President Lawrence Hamm said in a statement. written statement.

The organization also called for the names of the officers involved to be made public, along with their disciplinary records and body camera footage of the mall incident.

Public forum, after delays

On Thursday, after at least two town hall meetings canceled since the mall incident, a community forum involved a panel including Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench, Bridgewater Police Captain Sean O’Neill and the Director of the Somerset County Commissioner Shanel Robinson.

Also present at the event were NAACP New Brunswick Chapter President Bruce Morgan, Pastor David Hobbs of the Macedonian Baptist Church in Bridgewater, community activist Tormel Pittman and former Bridgewater Police Sgt. . ArtAtkins.

The panel answered questions submitted in advance, as well as those posed during the event, which was streamed live.

“We had an honest, civil and productive discussion and we look forward to our community moving forward together,” said one. a message reads on the site where the questions had been submitted.

The actions of two Bridgewater Township police officers who responded to the mall brawl in February are still under review by the Somerset County District Attorney’s Office.

NJ.com reported that both officers were on duty.

Activists interrupt a press conference supposed to include the Reverend Al Sharpton (David Matthau/Townsquare Media NJ)

Activists interrupt a press conference supposed to include the Reverend Al Sharpton (David Matthau/Townsquare Media NJ)

A day before the community forum, a press conference planned by the Husain family, with civil rights lawyer Ben Crump and the Reverend Al Sharpton was interrupted by local activists – who criticized Sharpton and Crump as outsiders who don’t were not sincerely invested in the good of the community. -to be.

Sharpton ended up leaving without speaking publicly at the Bridgewater Civic Complex and Crump, Z’Kye and his family made remarks from inside the police station.

Crump said Wednesday that a federal civil rights lawsuit was being considered on the teenager’s behalf because “it must be documented that we will hold accountable those who discriminate against our children because our children’s lives matter.”

teenage fight at Bridgewater Mall (Tamra Goins via Facebook)

teenage fight at Bridgewater Mall (via attorney Ben Crump)

Local activists, including Hamm, have been pushing for Bridgewater to carry out a racial bias audit of all aspects of its policing and present a plan on how it will eliminate racist and discriminatory practices and policies within the police department.

“We are also asking the Bridgewater Commons Mall to lift the ban on Z’Kye and the other boy involved in the fight and that the mall withdraw its request that his family pay for the broken furniture,” Hamm also said.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at [email protected]

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