Revolution is delightful in the preliminary stages. – Aldous Huxley
By Tom DeSeno
Asbury Park feels like we are dancing on a volcano.
An Asbury Parker named Felicia Simmons is running a rally on Monday, at 5 pm, on the sidewalk in front of the Post office. At this writing, 3,000 people on the event page are either going (1,023) or interested in going (1,947).
I justify the cause. George Floyd suffered the only thing worse than death; he was tortured first. Face down in the gutter, knee on his carotid artery, knowing he was dying and begging for a life endowed by his creator especially for him, for which no one had the right to take or make him beg. He died terrified. It didn’t last 9 minutes. It lasted George’s forever.
I hope I don’t have to waste words convincing people who think waterboarding is torture that this was torture.
Infuriated, I looked up the Minnesota statute on torture to see how long Officer Chauvin could go to jail for torture. I was stunned to find he can’t – Minnesota has no law on torture. I did find a statute that will put you in jail if you torture an animal.
Good grief. No jail to torture a man, jail to torture a pig. America’s values on the worth of life have been so warped since 1973 the fight for it seems dauntingly hard.
I certainly see George Floyd. I see you too, Felicia Simmons, and understand your cause is to have government know that each person is far more important than a Minnesota pig. It’s been my cause since 1973. All human life is important. We are on the same side even when others, particularly governments, try to wedge us and convince us we are not.
Felicia didn’t get a permit for this rally, nor do I care. Asbury Park government has such a sordid history of not charging the permit fees for events they personally like, they may as well void the ordinance.
Then there is the issue of violating Governor Murphy’s lockdown order, which says you can’t assemble more than 25 people, without being summoned or arrested. In April a woman was arrested just for planning a rally to violate the order. I wish I could find words to say how happy I am Felicia is violating that order. Let me explain.
Governor Murphy, Attorney General Grewal and State Police Colonel Callahan have been acting like jolly green bullies. They’ve been making arrests for things like a man playing guitar on his own front porch, a Rabbi for praying, a gym owner for making a living and hundreds more “offenses” like that. Murphy revels in calling people who oppose him “knucklehead” and puts it on street signs. Real tough guys, those three.
Hear me well Felicia: Murphy, Grewal and Callahan are scared to death of you right now. They won’t arrest you. They won’t summon you. They fear if they oppose you, that you have the power to riot. I know you’ve no intention of that. But they don’t. They have to keep it considered.
That’s why at least 2 City Council members and other City officials hit the “going” button on your event. The powerful fear you right now. In the video of the arrest of that Rabbi in Lakewood, they didn’t fear the Jews would riot. When they summoned the gym owner, they didn’t fear all those muscle heads surrounding them would rampage. But they fear little Felicia Simmons. Good for you. Embrace your power. I’m glad you have it.
I admire your power right now because I wish I had it. I’m jealous. Many nights during this lockdown I fantasized about swinging open my church doors and having mass, in contradiction to Murphy, Grewal and Callahan, the three stooges of tyrannical governing. I just can’t find a priest to do it. Alas, my Catholic Church, when it comes to oppressive governments, has historically been more Romans 13 than Isaiah 1:23. That’s a fight I’ll have with the Pope if ever get to meet him.
You know those guys who stormed the Michigan Capital with rifles to stage a protest and didn’t get arrested? You are just like them,Felicia. Their guns may be legal, and the riot Murphy worries you could bring is not legal but make no mistake – it’s ultimately the weapons they fear. That’s why those guys didn’t get arrested and why you won’t, even though others have.
Felicia, the next time someone tells you the Second Amendment is there to keep government at bay, agree with them, because you are walking talking proof of it. You and those guys in Michigan are on the same side; government tries to get you two to fight, because our division gives them power. If this was an open carry gun state, you wouldn’t need the threat of a riot for Murphy to finally listen to you.
So much for the pros. Now for the contras, Felicia. I’m not talking about the virus, which I won’t address, because government has put out so much conflicting information they’ve lost the trust of the people. Everyone is left to their own devices on what to do about contagion.
I’ll address my usual and oft stated opposition to the nattering nabobs of negativism that make up the protesting class of Asbury Park, previously dubbed “The Outrage Team.” It’s the same funky bunch that throws every protest in Asbury. My problem with this Outrage Team, and you are one of them Felicia, is that they only get up in arms and have a protest if there is a really big media issue involving events that took place 1000 miles away like Orlando or Minneapolis. Meanwhile, there are social justice issues in Asbury Park, and the Outrage Team has never printed so much as a leaflet about them.
I’ve offered two local issues to the Outrage Team: 1. In 1997 the State made an order that led to the racial segregation of Asbury Park High School, leaving it to look like a segregated school from the antebellum south.You can change that. 2. A powerful board member of the company that owns all the boardwalk buildings in Asbury was a politician in another country, and he WROTE the law that puts gays in jail for life, just for being gay. You can change that.
Why won’t the Outrage Team have a rally about these local issues? No chance to get a mention on CNN or the NY Times, that’s why. So, the kids in Asbury Park stay segregated, and a human rights monster gets to be on the board of a company that controls our boardwalk. If we don’t care, why should the media and the law?
The only person I’ve heard give a speech at these Outrage Team rallies who brings the issues back to Asbury Park is a man named Danny Harris. Thank goodness for him. If he ever runs for City Council again, I’ll support him.
Speaking of speeches at these Asbury rallies – they always devolve into one thing: Hatred of white people. Challenge me on that. I have the videos to prove it. It matters not what the issue is, eventually the speakers punch Martin Luther King, Jr. in the face and judge people not on their individual characters, rather the immutable trait that is their melanin-lacking skin tone. I seem to be the only person left in Asbury Park who celebrates not only King’s birthday but his sentiment, so we may as well lose the holiday.
The biggest problem with these Asbury rallies is when they get the history of the West Side wrong, and they get it wrong every single time. They didn’t live it nor bother to read of it.
The short version of the real history – the West Side of Asbury Park was integrated with white and black people who got along. We were integrated naturally decades before the rest of America was forced to integrate by law in 1964. If you read of the Asbury riots of 1970, there are no pictures of black and white people fighting each other. It was blacks fighting government, just like you are doing now, Felicia. The newspapers show no black people complaining of their white neighbors. They didn’t. Issues were not local to the West Side. We were better than that. We got along. We were family.
Having grown up there, having come from a family from West Side Asbury for 100 years, that integration was always a source of my pride. I love my Asbury history. Now, 50 years later, I have to suffer the indignity of dreadlocked white progressives who weren’t even born yet giving speeches about Asbury Park that suggest white and black people who lived there hated one another. Oppressed one another. That’s a lie. Ask any black person who lived there then. So please, don’t let that lie be told this time,Felicia.
And now for the enormous White Elephant in the room – this fear of riot. It’s not an irrational fear since it’s happening in every major city right now.
Oddly, I keep hearing and reading something new: Certain white people extolling the virtue of rioting, sometimes shrouding the support in words like, “I understand it” or “it’s an outlet for frustration.” You know why they are saying that? They’re hoping if a revolution comes, black people will be merciful to them. Riots hurt people for generations.
This was an opportunity lost. Every person black and white who saw that video was on the same page. I’ve never seen that with any other issue, ever. George Floyd’s death achieved what Kaepernick couldn’t – an historic moment to move forward together on black issues. Then someone squandered it by starting a race war.
I lived through the 1970 Asbury riot as a boy and my white family stayed in the West Side instead of moving to Ocean like most. Let me tell you about the aftermath of a riot: It was brutal to black people. In 3 days, a community that was filled with black business owners, black doctors and lawyers, was gone. When the National Guard and the media left, so did any interest in Asbury. No one hammered a nail for 40 years. Nothing came back. Poverty took hold followed by the accoutrements of poverty – unemployment, depression, hunger, drugs, gangs and crime. Anyone supporting a riot supports the obliteration of black lives. There were negative effects for the white families that stayed back, but this isn’t about that right now.
I can tell you why my phone is ringing with people worried of riot at your rally: One of your attendees, and I hear he may be a speaker, all this week on social media has been promoting and cheering rioting and burning down buildings. I have copies of his social media posts. Let’s hope the cops do too.
I’ll leave you with something Felicia that I hope someone who cares about you has already told you. No matter your intentions, you can’t control the intentions of others that come to your rally. No matter how much you plead. If they go bad, you’ll be driving a car with no steering.
That’s what happened in Asbury, 1970. Asbury Avenue was lined with busses of people brought in for riot, and the media blamed us, as we scratched our heads and asked, “Who were those people?” There are testimonies of people black and white to confirm that.
It gets worse. If rioting happens, people get hurt and millions of dollars in damages are caused, you will be responsible. Under New Jersey law, if you host an event, you are obligated to know the risks and provide the security. You can’t rely on the cops – they have immunity. You don’t.
I worry you don’t have insurance. If the City did its job and made you get a permit, you would be required to have it. If you don’t, all damage will be on you personally.
I suppose you can recite the reward in this. I hope you know that if it goes badly, you’ll be left with the reputation as the pariah who brought back the riots to Asbury. See how many people like your page and stand with you then.
I’m rooting for you, Felicia. Do well. Be best. I’d say a prayer and light a candle for you, if Phil Murphy would just let me back in my church. Maybe you can make him for me.