With the crowd chanting “take a knee, take a knee,” officer Ramirez came down off the steps of City Hall where she had been posted in a phalanx of officers, some in riot gear. Standing next to Pamela Johnson, executive director of the Jersey City Anti-Violence coalition, she slowly knelt. The crowd roared with approval. The women hugged. Within minutes, another group of officers – black, white and hispanic — followed officer Ramirez’s cue and knelt under city hall’s portico. Several people in the ethnically diverse crowd openly wept.
The rally, organized by the Anti-Violence Coalition, had begun at 4 pm with a series of speakers leading a crowd of hundreds with chants of “power to the people” and “I can’t breath.” The speakers condemned the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and others at the hands of police. One after another, they demanded an end to systemic racism and police brutality. Two hours later, the second, much larger wave of marchers descended on City Hall and convinced the officers to kneel. With that simple gesture of humility, the crowd seemed visibly relieved. Frank “Educational” Gilmore, who, only minutes ago, had led the crowd with a bullhorn, demanding change, could be seen smiling broadly and fist-bumping with a friend. People milled about, processing what they had just seen and discussing what the future held. And then, like the earlier rally, the crowd slowly dispersed, peacefully.