Protestors Call For Justice In March To Police Headquarters

Black Lives Matter protest - 5

Leah Madison, center, organized a march in support of people of color killed by police officers which ended at the township police headquarters.

More than 40 people marched from Naaman Williams Park to the township police headquarters July 11 to remember people of color – including a township resident – who were killed by police.

Organized by Leah Madison, a former township resident who now lives in New Brunswick, the march was conducted “in the name of justice,” she said.

“Today we peacefully marched from the Naaman Williams Park here to the police station in the name of justice, peacefully, for the countless victims slain by police brutality and injustice,” she said.

Madison, a 2005 Franklin High School graduate, said she is the great-granddaughter of Naaman Williams, the township’s first black police officer, after whom the park is named.

Madison said she’s participated in marches in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, “but it kind of hit close to home when something happned right here, so we decided to do it in the name of Diahlo Grant, who was killed in April by policemen from Franklin Township.”

Grant was killed in New Brunswick on April 9, after what officials said was a short foot chase from Franklin and a shootout with two township police officers. Police said they recovered the gun and bullet fired at an officer, but Grant’s family maintains that he did not carry a gun.

Madison said she is not affiliated with any groups, but some marchers wore “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts, and the phrase was chanted several times while the group was at police headquarters.

“I did this on my own, out of my own heart,” she said. “By the grace of God, he told me to, so I did this on my own.”

Madison said she had the idea for the march on July 9, and talked about it with some friends.

“They said go for it,” she said.

“On Sunday I went to church, the sermon spoke to me, so I sent out a message on Facebook on Sunday and I reiterated it today, and this the turnout we had,” she said.

Marchers left Williams Park, headed up Matilda Avenue to Hamilton Street/Amwell Road, and then turned down DeMott Lane to the municipal complex.

Madison said she did not think that marches such as the one she organized would make a difference any time soon.

“I know in my lifetime I will not see the end of institutional racism or injustices against people of color because it’s not just black people, there are Hispanic people, there are Mexican people in California, there are special needs people who are not necessarily targeted but who are wrongfully executed by police officers,” she said. “I hope that one day, my great-grandkids will understand that somebody fought for them. I want that change in the world.”

While she and the protestors were decrying police brutality, Madison said she wanted to make clear that she supports “good cops.”

“You have to be mindful that as much as we hate bad cops, we have to praise the good ones,” she said. “I’m perfectly fine with praising the good ones, I just want the bad ones to not be there.”

Madison gave credit to township police Capt. Gregory Borlan, with whom she said she was in contact all day planning the march.

“Capt. Borlan was more than helpful,” she said. “It takes a lot to be a police officer, I understand that, and they have been nothing but coorpertaive with us, they helped us out a lot. They told me two squad cars, and it ended up being 13. They understood why we felt this way.”

Another march is planned by the Grant family and Black Lives Matter Rutgers at 2 p.m. on July 21 at the Somerset Street location of a makeshift memorial for Grant. The marchers will go to the office of the Middlesex County Prosecutor.

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