Police, prosecutor help lead George Floyd protest in Toms River
TOMS RIVER — A peaceful march of about 100 people went through downtown on Tuesday morning to protest last week's death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The group started its march at the Kohl's at the Toms River Center shopping center where members of Toms River police and the Ocean County Sheriff's Office handed out water and hand sanitizer to the marchers. Police also arranged for buses to take the marchers back to the shopping center.
The group was joined by officers from both agencies, including police Chief Mitch Little and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billimer, both of whom are white, along with protest organizer Katrina Garcia, who held a banner during the march.
The march ended at the Ocean County Courthouse where the group chanted "black lives matter."
Garcia, who is not part of any organization, put the march together after watching the video of Floyd crying for his mother while he lied facedown with Officer Derek Chauvin's knee on his neck.
"I lost my mother when I was 9-years-old. I had to be a voice for my two children and for the community and the youth of this community. That's why I felt I had to do this. This was my purpose. For awareness, for peace, equality, unity, all of us to stick together," the 29-year-old told WOBM News.
"The changes I would like to see are continuous change. I would love for Martin Luther King's dream to become our reality for real, for real and not just to end with Tuesday's march," Garcia said.
Little praised Garcia for how she organized the rally.
"She wanted to get all the best people from our community together to show support. We want to show support for what we all believe in in the community. I couldn't be more proud of this community right for the way everyone came together peacefully, we all walked peacefully, we had a nice demonstration downtown peacefully and we all dispersed peacefully," Little said.
Little said no outside organizations were part of the march.
Rumors has swirled about the protest turning violent. leading two downtown stores to board up their windows. The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office issued a statement that there was no evidence suggesting the march would turn violent.
"It was a peaceful march. It was important for us to send a message from law enforcement in Ocean County and throughout New Jersey that we stand with peaceful protesters and we appreciate their right to protest," Billhimer said.
He said that law enforcement and the community are on the same side about what happened to George Floyd but there is a difference in opinion in how to protest against it.
"I think we proved that here today, and hopefully we can set an example for the rest of the country and for the state, that peaceful demonstrations are possible. Law enforcement, we were happy to walk with them and we're proud to be here today," Billhimer said.
Marches are also scheduled for Highland Park, Morristown, Ocean City, Parsippany and South Brunswick on Tuesday.
Tom Trembly and Kevin Williams contributed to this report.