Newark becomes beacon of hope as protest rallies remain peaceful

Hundreds of rallies have been organized around the country to protest police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

News 12 Staff

Jun 4, 2020, 11:36 PM

Updated 1,412 days ago


Hundreds of rallies have been organized around the country to protest police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Some of these protests have turned violent, leading to widespread rioting and looting. But the protest in Newark – a city still scarred by civil unrest in 1967 – has not seen any of these violent acts. And it is mostly due to how the city approaches such events.
“Newark has been here before. My father was beaten in the head during the rebellion in 1967. He was beaten by one of his classmates from Barringer High School,” Mayor Ras Baraka told the crowd at last weekend’s rally.
Baraka told the story of his father Amiri Baraka being bloodied by police during that riot that swept the city. It was a spate of violence that some feared would happen again as protests last week turned violent across the country.
How has Newark isolated itself from the chaos? City officials say that it is a three-pronged approach.
The first part is Mayor Baraka himself, with his deep ties and family history to the city. The mayor being at the forefront of the march and the group People’s Organization for Progress stressing nonviolence, has kept the peace. The second approach is the decision by the Newark Police Department not to send in armored SWAT teams to confront the protesters.
And the third aspect keeping the peace at the rally is the Newark Community Street Team. Formed by Baraka in 2014, it is headquartered in a 110-year-old carriage house behind the vacant 5th Precinct House. Street team members were out among the protesters, identifying those who were looking to start trouble.
Photos: Protests from Around New Jersey
“We believe that some of them were there. Provocateurs as anarchists that were actually trying to do harm to the city,” says Street Team COO Daamin Durden.
Durden says street team members and other community members would not let the demonstrators do harm to the city, like when they stopped a man looking to take a bat to the window of a Dunkin'.
“We were positioned at every part of the demonstration. And so, whenever we saw that we literally engaged them and confronted them with our training our and our techniques to deescalate the situation,” says Durden. “Sometimes the confrontation was as little as, ‘Hey, hey! Don’t do that.’…and then some of it was…physically stopping them. Our director literally took the burning flag and put it out.”
For Newark residents, the events of the past week have quietly become a new source of pride that seems tangible around the city – and a new hope that Newark can become a symbol of something different than its painful history.
The city and street team continued to respond to social media reports of people planning disruptions on Wednesday and Thursday, and have so far managed to defuse them.

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