Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Decarcerating Bridgeton, NJ: Chapter 2

For the previous posting on this topic, see:Decarcerating in Bridgeton, a Historic Challenge

On the evening of February 10, at the Sheppard House. in Bridgeton, NJ, 12 people (including one by phone) attended the Kick-Off Meeting for Decarcerate NJ Panel Discussion to begin planning an event in conjunction with Tour de Decarcerate, a project of Decarcerate the Garden State that is working to bring “panel discussions” to cities and campuses throughout NJ to lay the ground work for a critical mass rising around the demand to DECARCERATE THE GARDEN STATE.
The meeting included representation of community forces that have been organizing and providing leadership to the protest over the killing of Jerame Reid by police as he attempted to emerge from a vehicle with his hands up, representatives of Up to Us South Jersey and young members of a local farmers collective as well as myself on behalf of Decarcerate the Garden State.

After about an hour of discussion, some of it intensive, those in attendance unanimously agreed to move forward with the proposal to organize a panel discussion in Bridgeton with the following parameters:

While the date is not set, it will likely occur at 3:30 pm on a Saturday with the hopes that we can do outreach to those with people inside Southwoods State Penitentiary who are in town for an afternoon  visit of a family member.

It will occur on a date that is after February 28, the date of a statewide protest in Bridgeton demanding justice for Jerame Reid.

It will likely occur some time in the second half of March or the first part of April.

Attempts will be made to reach out to every sector of the local community as well as to those outside of Bridgeton.

The local panel will involve representatives of the efforts demanding justice for Jerame Reid and explore connections between mass incarceration and police brutality in Bridgeton and elsewhere.

The panel will also address issues of concern around the Southwoods facility and hopes to engage those that have family / friends on the inside.

While a location has not been set, possibilities include the Sheppard House – and there is also a plan to reach out to local pastors to see if there can be a local church facility that would hopefully be free of charge.

After the meeting, most of those in attendance moved down two blocks for a celebratory pizza party at Big John’s Pizza where meeting participants were able to get to know each other a little as we prepare ourselves for this historic journey.

While the meeting was able to get the ball in the air there is a tremendous amount of challenges ahead to make this successful.

The first order of business is to continue to support the community forces that are demanding justice in the wake of the police killing of Jermae Reid.  The next event for that purpose is:

Tuesday, 5pmn February 17, 350 Fayette Street in Bridgeton, NJ. 

Following that will be a major statewide event in Bridgeton:

The NJ Statewide March Against Police Brutality:



FEBRUARY 28, 2015

South and Henry Street in Bridgeton, NJ
Line up to march at 11 am
Start marching at 12 noon
March to Cumberland County Courthouse
60 West Broad Street, Bridgeton, NJ

For more information or to endorse and participate contact Walter Hudson, 609 381 8509.

It is important for Decarcerators to help strengthen this movement.  The police brutality, racial profiling, school to prison pipeline and police corruption, abuse and outright killing with impunity has for many turned the streets and communities into open air prisons.  Ending mass incarceration and police brutality are just varying focal points of a common fight.  We should hopefully have our event planned – at least the date and location by February 28 so that we can have materials at the statewide march inviting participation.

Another important order of business is securing the location for the event.  One suggestion is Sheppard House which is a great venue.  We might want to consider other alternatives especially if we are successful in mobilizing for a sizable event and also if we intend to have any nourishment available.  We are  looking into possible church venues.  Another possibility is the Free Public Library meeting room, which has a nominal $25 fee.

Another decision is whether we should try to have food.  It would be nice if either pizza or sandwiches can be provided – if we can reach out to some local establishments to see if anyone would donate some servings.  That would make it more inviting especially to those who came a distance for visiting at Southwoods.  However, we should only pursue that if it can be done with minimalist effort – and depending upon the venue, food might not be a possibility.

A big question is – as we move forward – how can we effectively communicate to the families of Southwoods and promote the idea of a Statewide Southwoods Visit / Attend Decarcerate Event day.   A group has been started on Facebook to start building conversation among Southwoods families – that can be part of the strategy but other methods are needed to make that communication possible.  I would also like to suggest that Renee Felton, whose son is a victim of injustice (shot in head by police, blinded, prosecuted and serving 16 years, serving at Southwoods) be a possible invited speaker on the Southwoods issues.

One idea possibly to ponder is if we can communicate via letter, family phone calls and visits to some of the incarcerated at Southwoods and ask if they can let other incarcerated know about what we are doing and ask them to contact their friends and relatives on the outside about getting in touch with our efforts.

Of course we need to find the heavy hitter key note presenter – hopefully someone of this sort of caliber (though Johanna Fernandez is not available).  I am reaching into Philadelphia for possible talent in this regard.

We invite all those interested in participating and helping to make this event a success – if you are on Facebook join Decarcerate the Garden State and communicate with us there or you can call 908-881-5275 or write to .

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