Today’s Solutions: May 19, 2024

This past weekend our Emissaries received our Optimist View: Why civil disobedience and ahimsa (nonviolence) triumph in the face of injustice. After sharing some of the philosophies and leaders of nonviolent activism, today we focus on Newark, a city that is serving as a nonviolent beacon of hope during the protests for racial justice.

Newark is familiar with the potential for violence during periods of civil unrest. The city experienced riots surrounding the issue of race in the summer of 1967 which resulted in the death of 26 people. Today, the way the city approaches protests is responsible for the sustained peace at these events.

City officials credit a three-pronged approach for their success. The first prong is mayor Ras Baraka, who has deep ties to the city. His own father was beaten during the 1967 riots and he has been vocal with the city about his support for racial equality including placing himself at the forefront of the marches and serving as a leader in the People’s Organization for Progress. 

The second prong was the decision to not send in armored SWAT teams to confront the protesters. The decision not to militarize the protest response has reduced the potential for violent interactions between police and protestors. 

Lastly, the creation of the Newark Community Street Team, formed by Baraka in 2014, has been instrumental in ruling out potentially dangerous situations and individuals. As we discuss in our other story today, some groups have been using the crowds of the protests as a guise to provoke violence against peaceful protestors and vandalize the city.  

The Street Team has members situated throughout the city who respond to incidents swiftly and calmly, serving to deescalate potential conflicts. 

The multifaceted approach has been successful. Rather than suppress protests, Newark has supported and acknowledged them while helping maintain peace. The city is an example of the power of organizing upheld by strong leadership and communication between officials and citizens.

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