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An Egg Harbor Township police SUV blocks eastbound traffic on Route 40 near Athens Avenue into Atlantic City Friday. The road was shut down due to police activity.

Calls for justice and equality at Juneteenth rally at Stockton

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Stockton University students, faculty, alumni and community members rallied Friday to celebrate Juneteenth, promote equality and fight systemic racism.

“Today, we’re going to march, we’re going to chant together to make sure our voices are heard,” NAACP Stockton Chapter President Danielle Combs told the crowd of more than 300 gathered on the steps of the Campus Center for the March for Justice. It was one of many protest events happening in the region and nationally since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody.

Combs said she wanted to hold the event on Juneteenth because it was such an important day in America’s history — the day the news of their freedom reached slaves in Texas in 1865, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Stockton professor Donnetrice Allison said it may seem strange to celebrate a day tied to slavery.

Murphy backs bill to regulate polluting firms in Black cities

TRENTON — Citing nationwide Juneteenth celebrations, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday it’s time to pass legislation giving state regulators the authority to deny development permits to businesses whose operations pollute primarily Black communities.

“This is our freedom day, not the Fourth of July,” she said. “It’s fitting that you, our students, chose this day to make your voices heard.”

The march started with chants and music led by professor Beverly Vaughn. Many attendees carried signs reading, among other things, “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for George Floyd” and “This is a movement, not a moment,” and wore T-shirts in support of the cause. Black Lives Matter face masks were distributed in support of social-distancing regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stockton senior Olamide Adejumo, of Lumberton, Burlington County, handed out bracelets that read “Lift, Lead, Liberate,” advertising an upcoming event at the college promoting “advancing excellence among students of color.” Adejumo said that as a Black student and an immigrant, she felt it was important to come together and have these tough conversations.

“It was imperative that I be there,” she said.

The rally came on the heels of criticism of the school for its handling of racist social media posts by two students that were widely circulated. One of the students involved was not disciplined because the post occurred when she was a freshman in high school. She has since apologized publicly. The college has not completed its disciplinary procedures for the other student, a spokeswoman for the college said Friday.

Sophomore Teavanna Reyes, of Sicklerville, Camden County, said it was nice to see Stockton officials participating in Friday’s rally in light of those recent events.

Alana Williams, a senior from Trenton, added there are more things the college can do to treat its students equally, like not having a police presence at events hosted by Black student organizations when it doesn’t at those hosted by white student organizations.

“It’s not going to be a solution to all the problems, but it’s a great start,” said Amaiya Roundtree, of Neptune, Monmouth County, president of the Unified Black Students Society.

“I’m really glad that they’re actually having (the rally) and acknowledging that it’s going on,” O’Niel Bygrave, of Atlantic City, a senior and member of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity, said of his school.

Senior Shane Wilborn added, “I feel like just being a man of color, this is the stuff we should be doing.”

The rally included a march around the track eight times to acknowledge the 8 minutes and 46 seconds a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck before he died in May, and a pause of that same length to remember Floyd and other people of color, whose names were called aloud, who also died.

Sammy Sanchez, of Washington, D.C., a 2012 Stockton alumnus, used a megaphone to promote federal legislation that would provide reparations for slavery and said he was asking Stockton officials to support the bill.

“Stockton is my home, so things must be right in my home,” Sanchez said.

Student speakers promoted the importance of voting and encouraged students to register. Some speakers called on white students to do their part and not sit passively by when they encounter racism in any form.

The otherwise peaceful protest was briefly interrupted by two speakers from a group called New Jersey Abolitionist Collective who read a list of demands of the college that they believed would abolish systematic racism. Combs told the group they could have a chance to speak after the organized portion of the event.

Sophomore Shannon Glover, 20, of Delran, Burlington County, who had organized a march for later in the day Friday, was able to combine his efforts with the NAACP rally.

“It’s about addressing the grotesque past America holds,” he said, noting that Black students make up 11% of Stockton’s student body. “I promise you, we will be the loudest 11% you’ve ever heard.”

PHOTOS: Juneteenth March for Justice at Stockton University 2020

Murphy backs bill to regulate polluting firms in Black cities

TRENTON — Citing nationwide Juneteenth celebrations, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday it’s time to pass legislation giving state regulators the authority to deny development permits to businesses whose operations pollute primarily Black communities.

Murphy, a Democrat, announced his support for the legislation in Trenton, alongside Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, lawmakers and other community activists. Murphy, who is white, announced his support for the legislation pending in the Democrat-led Legislature as communities across the country celebrate the June 19 holiday that long commemorated the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

The legislation aims to address what Murphy and lawmakers say have been years of putting incinerators, refineries and other businesses that pollute the air and water in cities and towns with mostly Black populations.

“Decades of inaction have led to environmental disparities throughout the state, creating overburdened communities that are unjustly exposed to significant air and water pollutants,” Murphy said.

Democratic state Sen. Troy Singleton, of Burlington County, is one of the bill’s authors, and said the national climate focused on addressing racism makes it the right time to push for the measure, which has been introduced in each session of the Legislature since 2008 but never became law.

“Issues like this oftentimes find their moment in history,” said Singleton, who is Black. “And right now we find it is the confluence of a lot of factors that have placed this issue of environmental justice more in the forefront than perhaps it has been in the past.”

The legislation requires the Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate public health and environmental effects when certain businesses such as power plants, incinerators, sewage treatment facilities and other trash-processing plants apply for permits in certain communities. They’re defined as census tracts when 35% of the population are low-income, or 40% of households are a minority or have limited English proficiency.

About 300 towns accounting for half the state’s population live in the communities defined under the bill, Murphy said.

DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe said the legislation would give state regulators the power to deny permits in such instances for the first time. Current law applies broadly and makes it difficult to deny permits, she said.

“What we can do is say this pollutant cannot be emitted at levels that would cause the ambient air in this air quality area, which by statute is defined as a very broad area, and as long as it does (satisfy that standard), we don’t have a basis to say no,” she said. “What this bill would allow us to do is say, that’s not the end of the story.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date when word of the Emancipation Proclamation reached African Americans in Texas. President Abraham Lincoln first issued the proclamation declaring all slaves free in Confederate territory on Sept. 22, 1862, but the news took time to travel.

Gates to Spectrum Field, spring training baseball game home of the Philadelphia Phillies are locked, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. Major League Baseball has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak and suspended the rest of its spring training schedule. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Cumberland County freeholders vote to censure member Surrency

Five members of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted Tuesday to censure fellow Freeholder Jack Surrency over a statement in which he accused county officials of misappropriating funds, according to information released by Jody Hirata, the clerk to the board.

Surrency accused county officials of misappropriating more than $386,000 to pay for disinfecting services at the county jail from March through June, Hirata said.

All of the Democrats on the board voted for the censure, except Surrency. Republican Douglas Albrecht also voted against the measure.

Albrecht said Thursday he voted no because he did not agree with how the censure was done. He said he had no written information on the motion prior to the vote and thought censure motions should be based on actions done in the chamber while working as a freeholder.

Surrency said Wednesday the vote to censure him was politically motivated by the upcoming July 7 primary. He accused his fellow board members of being upset with him and trying to make him angry.

“I’m doing what they don’t want me to do,” Surrency said.

Fellow Democratic Freeholder Carol Musso is running for re-election with Bruce Cooper and George Castellini as part of the Cumberland County Regular Democratic Organization.

Surrency is running for re-election with Donna Pearson and Tracey Wells-Huggins under the banner of the Progressive Democrats for Cumberland County.

“They are trying to bait me. I’m sticking to the issue,” Surrency said.

Surrency submitted a package of reforms to the board clerk May 12 aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19 at the county jail. The board voted 6-1 on May 19 against the resolutions Surrency submitted.

Freeholder Director Joseph Derella said Surrency’s public statements accusing county officials of misappropriating funds were an attack on not only the county administrator and her staff but also the members of the freeholder board, who approved the expenditure for COVID-19 related disinfection of county facilities, according to Hirata.

At the close of the freeholder work session Tuesday, county Administrator Kim Wood can be heard during an audio recording of the meeting saying she was surprised and shocked by an article online over the weekend that talked about misappropriating funds. She wrote a letter that she read during the meeting, directed at Surrency.

“Never in my 33 years of government experience have I ever, ever had my integrity or the way that I operate ever been questioned,” Wood said before she read her statement.

The COVID-19 disinfection-related expenditure was authorized by two resolutions approved by the freeholders April 28 and May 26, said Wood in her statement.

Surrency seconded the motion to approve a resolution to authorize extraordinary expenditures for COVID-19 related expenses and voted in favor of a second resolution authorizing the payment of the very same disinfecting service invoices he publicly described as unauthorized, Wood said.

The invoices included the cost to disinfect all county facilities, including three disinfection treatments at the Cumberland County jail, in contrast to Surrency’s statements that the money related only to the jail, Wood said. She also read a list of all the county buildings that were disinfected.

Surrency said Thursday he did vote in April for the $3 million in emergency funds and in May for the $392,830 that was awarded to Holden Facility Services to disinfect all county facilities in April and May, but he wanted a further breakdown and details of both expenditures.

During the audio recording of the meeting, Wood said Surrency failed to contact her office prior to publishing what she described as the “defamatory” accusation and indicated that a simple phone call would have clarified any confusion he may have had over the cost of disinfection services.

At the conclusion of Wood’s remarks, she provided Surrency with a letter demanding a written public retraction be posted on the Facebook site “Progressive Democrats for Cumberland” and Insider NJ.

Surrency said Thursday he would not provide the retraction.


Officials seek to help voters navigate vote-by-mail ballot process

Feeling confused about how to cast a vote-by-mail ballot for the July 7 primary election?

The NAACP’s Mainland Pleasantville branch has created a step-by-step video that will make it clear how to do it properly as part of its Voter Information Series, President Olivia Caldwell said.

The state was also due to come out with a public education campaign Friday as per Gov. Phil Murphy’s order.

Division of Elections spokesperson Alicia D’Alessandro told Politico New Jersey there will be a digital campaign plus radio and billboard trucks with the slogan “Vote. Sign. Seal. Return.”

Debate set for leading Democrats vying to oust Van Drew

The three leading Democrats in the primary race for the nomination in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District will debate June 25 in an online event sponsored by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.

Vote-by-mail applications have been sent to every registered Democrat and Republican in the state. Unaffiliated registered voters have been sent applications for mail-in ballots but must declare themselves Republican or Democrat to vote in the primary.

Atlantic County Board of Elections Chairperson Evelynn “Lynn” Caterson provides the information on the NAACP video, as she opens and explains how to process her own vote-by-mail materials.

Caterson opens the packet, which includes five pieces: a letter explaining why the recipient is getting a vote-by-mail ballot, a brochure of instructions, the ballot itself, an inner envelope to place the completed ballot in and an outer mailing envelope. The video also explains where to sign.

“I suggest you take the instructions and go through them carefully,” Caterson says.

High returns, some issues pop up in vote-by-mail primary

With more than two weeks to go until the state’s first vote-by-mail primary election July 7, the Atlantic County Board of Elections has already received 12,800 completed ballots, while a mix-up has caused the post office to mistakenly return some filled-out ballots to voters.

The ballot must be filled out using a No. 2 pencil or black or blue pen, Caterson says.

“Be very careful as you fill in the ballot not to mark anything but the bubbles or balloon or oval circles you intend to mark. Any other mark on the ballot could disqualify it,” she says. “If it says vote for only one person, vote for only one person. If you vote for more than that, the ballot indicates your votes will not be counted.”

The flap on the outside of the inner envelope must NOT be detached, Caterson stresses. It must be signed and the signature must match those on record in poll books and in any requests for mail-in-ballots, Caterson says. If it doesn’t, it may be disqualified.

The mailing envelope is postage paid, so no stamps are required.

Once the packet is prepared, it can be dropped in any U.S. Postal Service mailbox, in one of five drop boxes around the county, or hand-delivered to the Board of Elections in the old courthouse in Mays Landing.

Three of those lock boxes were installed as of Thursday, county officials said. They are located at the Atlantic County Office Building, 1333 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City; Galloway Township Municipal Hall, 300 E. Jimmie Leeds Road; and the Hammonton Municipal Building at 100 Central Ave.

Drop boxes that will begin servicing voters by Monday will be at the Egg Harbor Township Municipal Hall, 3515 Bargaintown Road; and the Buena Vista Township Municipal Hall, 890 Harding Highway.

Every county is required to have five secure lock boxes set up for this election, per Murphy’s orders. Murphy moved the primary to July 7 from June 2 and made it a mostly vote-by-mail election to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus. Each municipality will have one polling station open July 7, but machines will be available only for those with disabilities, Murphy said. Others who show up on Election Day will have to fill out paper provisional ballots.

Any voter who allows someone else to act as a bearer and take the completed ballot to the Board of Elections must designate that person as bearer on the outer envelope before handing it over, she said.

Bearers are limited to transporting three ballots in addition to their own to the board, Caterson said.