Gov. Phil Murphy started Monday's state briefing by "lifting up the many peaceful and moving protests" over the weekend, as Murphy said New Jersey was ready to "fight the sin of racism and the stain it has left on our state and nation."

Murphy said he supported and thanked the thousands of residents who peacefully and respectfully took part in events to help draw attention to systemic racism. Though police reported violence and looting in Atlantic City and Trenton, in dozens of other New Jersey communities, protesters gathered without incident. Police and public officials joined them, in some.

"The need for change and equal justice for black and brown communities is real. This is a transformational moment," the governor said.

He continued "Protest is the language of the unheard, of the ignored — and the names must be said again and again, and again: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more before them, who lost their lives for no reason other than for the color of their skin."

He said it was as important to stage: "Black Lives Matter."

 

Protests throughout the nation this week were sparked by death of unarmed black man George Floyd's  under the need of a Minneapolis police officers who has since been charged with his murder. In several large cities, including nearby Philadelphia, looting and vandalism has followed.

Murphy said "The fact that so many people have come forward to fight for the most basic principle of human dignity is a powerful reminder of the black and brown experience in America today. People with privilege are recognizing the pain of those without."

Murphy said he watched a Camden unity walk that involved police walking alongside community leaders with tremendous pride, as well as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joining the city's peaceful protest Saturday.

"We will not let a small number in our state who wish to harm our communities distract us from the greater message lifted up by literally tens of thousands of others," Murphy said, seeming to refer to the couple of violent outbursts that followed peaceful events Sunday in both Atlantic City and Trenton.

At the same briefing, State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan said there had been more than 30 organized protests statewide, and only the Trenton and Atlantic City demonstrations ultimately descended into criminal activity.

Callahan said there were 12 arrests in Atlantic City and 27 arrests in Trenton after attempted looting and vandalism, some of which was caught on video posted to social media.

Callahan said he would be meeting Monday afternoon with some black state troopers, to listen to what they had to say and learn from their perspectives. He said he spoke to as one member of law enforcement who voiced a struggle to reconcile his race with his profession during national unrest.

"I could probably never offer a perspective that comes close to theirs," Callahan said.

"New Jersey can be a leader in bringing the change we need," Murphy said, adding his administration has been "committed to tackling and dismantling systemic racism, but despite our great strides thus far, we know that work is far from over. We will continue to listen and to stand in solidarity."

Murphy said the past few days have been filled with personal reflection, as he's thought of such pioneers as former President Barack Obama, civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis and social activist and civil rights leader, Julian Bond, "who was a dear personal friend," Murphy said.

Murphy also recognized his lieutenant governor "my partner in government, the extraordinary Sheila Oliver," before mentioning several young staffers whom Murphy called "extraordinary talents" who are "living the dreams of their fathers and mothers." Oliver is black, and Murphy said the young staffers he mentioned are as well.

"As George Floyd's tragic death shows us, our work is not done," Murphy continued, noting "We have to make generational, permanent change in our state, and we will, and in our country."

When asked about peaceful protestors being in violation of the state's continued executive orders for gathering in crowds amid the pandemic, Murphy said he believed taking part in such marches over the murder of Floyd in broad daylight, and the overall issue of systemic racism, was "in a different orbit" than citizens who are impatient to return to businesses still reopening, such as nail salons.

Murphy said he didn't want to make light of the gradual reopening and "I'll probably get lit up by everyone who owns a nail salon in the state."

He also said he did see a lot of masks among those peacefully protesting.

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