Lawrence Hamm, chairman of the People's Organization For Progress, speaks to a Montclair Police Department officer before setting out on a 67-mile march to Trenton with the group. (SHANE PAUL NEIL/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Members of several activist organizations began their march from Church Street and Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair to Trenton Friday — seeking support for police accountability measures and a slate of progressive policies.
The March To Trenton For Police Accountability, Social Justice, And Economic Progress was pushed up from an originally expected start date of Oct. 11 to Friday, Oct. 8, to give marchers more time to make their journey and deal with any bad weather or possibly emergencies, Lawrence Hamm, chairman of People’s Organization For Progress. The group was the lead organizer for the event.
Marchers expected to make their way through 22 towns on a route 67 miles long before completing their trek at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16 at the State House.
“We are walking from Montclair to Trenton to highlight the issue of police brutality and to demand the NJ Legislature pass legislation to hold police accountable,” Hamm, who planned to walk the entire distance, said in an announcement of the event.
He said marchers were primarily demanding passage of a bill to create civilian police review boards with subpoena power. The bill remained in committee in the state Assembly as of June, and hasn't moved in the state Senate since being introduced last year.
Marchers also supported other legislation aimed at overseeing or restraining practices by law enforcement — to make officer disciplinary records public, to criminalize the use of chokeholds by police, to establish requirements for the use of deadly force and to end qualified immunity in New Jersey. They wanted Gov. Phil Murphy to veto a bill that lets police view bodycam footage before issuing their reports.
And marchers were seeking support for the federal George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which addresses a wide range of police practices, including some of the same ones addressed by the New Jersey legislation.
Hamm also said marchers demanded passage of state and federal legislation to create slavery reparations study commissions at the state and national levels, passage of voting rights legislation, a $15 federal million wage and legislation to facilitate worker unionization.