Asbury Park, George Floyd, and Maurice Gordon
Wine, Women, and Revolution Welcomes Felicia Simmons
Welcome, listeners and readers, to Wine, Women, and Revolution, with your host Heather Warburton. We are coming at you from New Jersey Revolution Radio. For today’s episode, we are joined by special guest activist Felicia Simmons for a conversation about protests, police injustice, and community regulation.
A few weeks ago, we did a livestream from the Justice for George Floyd event in Asbury Park. Now, we are honored to welcome one of the organizers of that event to our show. Felicia Simmons is President of the Monmouth-Ocean County National Action Network, Head of Education for the Asbury Park Neptune NAACP, an affiliate of Black Lives Matter, a member of the New Jersey Pan-African Chamber of Commerce, and a former Board of Education member.
Black Lives Matter Asbury Park
Felicia reports that the organizers of the Asbury Park event were unsure of how many participants to expect. “We were excited for a thousand, we didn’t really know,” Felicia remembers, “but now the numbers are coming back closer to ten thousand people.” One of Felicia’s friends who attended the protest recorded from high above with an aerial drone and was still unable to capture all of the attendants. The organizers were very pleased with the event turnout; they were glad to have achieved the goal of bringing the community together with a beautiful energy and direct purpose.
Some of the protestors at the event were arrested or detained. People have been trapped in their houses for months and then they are drawn out by deep pain and anger about the horrific racist police brutality issue in this country, only to be told there is a curfew. Cops are looking for reasons to arrest people and they will invent these reasons if needed. For example, Felicia was familiar with the area in which the protest took place. She does not remember any piles of rocks just laying around. However, on the day of the protest, there was reportedly at least one pile of rocks on the corner of the street, conveniently sitting in the middle of town, just waiting to be picked up and thrown.
Remembering Maurice Gordon
There is an illusion in American society that police exist to protect and serve the nation, to provide safety. However, as demonstrated by countless incidents of brutality against innocent, unarmed civilians, this is not the case. Police are the muscle arm of an occupying force. They are there to carry out the will of the ruling class and ensure the existence of the gap between society’s haves and have-nots.
George Floyd’s tragic murder brought attention to thel issue of police brutality, which has always been important. It is important to maintain this level of awareness so that we do not lose sight of our goals to put an end to this injustice. Right here in New Jersey, two days before George Floyd’s death, a young Black man named Maurice Gordon was shot and killed by an officer on the New Jersey parkway. Mr. Gordon was having a mental health crisis. This should have been evident from the fact that he was stopped 4 times going over 100 miles per hour.
“Protect and Serve”?
The police asked Mr. Gordon where he was going and his response was “to the end of the game.” They tested him for intoxication and when he passed, he was let go. If one of the officers had recognized the situation for the mental health crisis that it was and called emergency medical personnel, Maurice Gordon could have still been alive today. This incident is one of many that indicate a major issue with the police force in America. There is overpolicing when it comes to property value and enforcing wealth and racial segregation, and underpolicing when it comes to the health of citizens.
“Protect and serve” has been grossly distorted such that people who call on the police in need of help are often murdered in consequence. People, especially those of color, are afraid to call the cops. Police are a militarized force, weaponized at all times, even when it is not helpful or necessary for the situation. They are not adequately trained in de-escalation or monitored regularly for mental health.
Where Do We Go From Here?
What we need now is action and legislation. Felicia notes that listening is good, but we’ve had enough meetings. We’ve taken enough surveys. We’ve done enough data analysis. That is what we’ve been doing for the past 50 years. What is required and demanded now is enacted change. We need a diversion of government funds and efforts away from police and towards empowerment and employment, economic and social justice, and adequate mental and physical healthcare in our communities. Although some people seem to think it outrageous, the truth is that any given community most often knows what it needs.
Felicia’s parting words are this: surround yourself with a diverse group of people who will tell you the truth. Step into leadership roles and challenge your views. It is dangerous to fall into an echo chamber but it can be avoided by surrounding yourself with diverse people who will challenge you to be your best. Finally, get involved in your community and don’t be afraid to work with people who are different from you.
Thank You For Being Here
Thank you again to Felicia Simmons and to our listeners! We depend solely on donations from people like you. We truly appreciate anything you can give — no matter how small the amount. Your contributions help us be able to do more. Like Felicia said, get out there, get involved, and do something. Things in American society need changing and they’re not going to change on their own. That’s why we here at Wine, Women, and Revolution always sign off by saying: The future is yours to create! Go out there and create it!
-Leah Giannantonio, for New Jersey Revolution Radio