Bravo to all of the demonstrators who showed up in Mount Laurel earlier this week to protest.
I love your spirit.
I love your passion.
I love your fearlessness.
I love your commitment to racial justice.
You should be proud of yourselves. Don’t forget this moment. Let it motivate you. Going forward, ask yourselves: What would happen if we brought this same energy each and every time there was a homicide in our communities? It would send a powerful message to would-be shooters and other bad actors among us that their behavior won’t be tolerated.
Not to take anything away from Monday’s epic action in Mount Laurel. Most folks wouldn’t have done what you guys did on a blistering hot day at the end of long holiday weekend. They’d watch that now-viral video of Edward Cagney Mathews antagonizing Black neighbors and hurling racial epithets, shake their heads and move on to the next social media post.
Not you guys. You got off your laptops. You put on your Black Lives Matter T-shirts, picked up your bullhorns, and walked or drove to the residential address Mathews summoned people to on the video. You brought bottles of water to share with fellow demonstrators. You didn’t know what you would be getting into, but you went anyway to make a statement that racial bigotry and harassment would not be tolerated.
You called friends and relatives and had them join you. One of my colleagues, Melanie Burney, had been having a leisurely lunch with her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters when sources alerted her to what was going on. She arrived on the scene promptly, still wearing the three-strand pearls she wore to lunch.
An estimated 150 of you converged outside Mathews’ home. It all came to a head when police escorted a handcuffed Mathews out of his home as the crowd jeered loudly.
I give you guys mad props. As always, though, there were knuckleheads bent on breaking windows and causing mayhem. They threw water and Gatorade and caused other destruction to private property. One used a Black Lives Matter flag to try to beat Mathews over the head. The man hit police officers with it, too. That was wrong. Dangerous too. Somebody could have been seriously injured. I don’t condone violence. Police already had Mathews in custody. The 45-year-old is facing a slew of charges including bias intimidation, trespassing, stalking and possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute. A detention hearing originally scheduled for Friday has been postponed until Tuesday.
“The events that have transpired in Mount Laurel have shed light upon larger system issues, throughout our state and country,” said Mount Laurel Mayor Stephen Steglick in a statement. “As I have said before, the now widely seen footage involving Edward Mathews is disturbing and speaks to a larger, hate-filled divide within our country.”
Authorities have called for an investigation into the local police department’s handling of numerous complaints from neighbors about Mathews over the years.
This happened because you all came together and demanded action.
Going forward, bring the same energy to demand that gun violence be treated like the public health crisis it is. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo led New York in becoming the first in the nation to declare a state of emergency around gun violence. After Philly and New Jersey last weekend experienced widespread violence that included the fatal wounding of a 10-year-old girl in Vineland, we need to rethink how we’re addressing the issue here as well.
You have it in you to bring the heat. You showed up and showed out after watching that disgusting video of Mathews hurling racial slurs and harassing his neighbors. I applaud you.
You’re not done, though. Not by a long shot. You may have gotten action with Mathews on Monday, but don’t let up the pressure on Mount Laurel until you’re satisfied that justice has been served.
Next time, leave the window-breakers at home. Some people can’t go. All they do is mess things up for everyone else. The rest of you, though, we need you to stay engaged.
Make us proud — again.