Just before 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, people set police cars on fire and looted stores in downtown Trenton just hours after a peaceful protest against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd ended. Men smashed police cars, attempted to flip one over, and then set them on fire. As the police cars burned, people looted a Family Dollar store, liquor stores, and other businesses on State Street near the intersection of Broad Street, and broke into a bank building. The street was littered with bullets.
Police are being called in from other towns to protect the capital city and stop the violence and looting.
Hours earlier, several thousand people gathered for a peaceful protest and display of unity in the city, and organizers lifted up Trenton residents for not resorting to violence to make their voices heard.
Protesters kicked off the rally at 3 p.m. in front of the State House, marching around the block before giving speeches. They then placed candles on the steps of a pavilion next to the State House Annex and took to the streets again, heading down West State Street and then East State Street to Clinton Avenue. They marched to the main police station in Trenton, and a few protesters threw stones at the building. Others called for calm and the situation was quickly diffused, but protesters wanted some kind of acknowledgment from the police and public officials about the problem of racism in law enforcement. They pointed to the police chief of Camden as a leader and role model for police for marching with residents on Saturday. Then they convinced officers to take a knee, though some officers refused and walked away. By about 5 p.m., the crowds had dispersed and a small group remained at the police station. Back at the State House, only a dozen or so people remained, saying their goodbyes to friends and then heading home.
The peaceful protest that drew thousands to downtown Trenton was organized by three young women, including Jayda Parker. The Lawrence High graduate was mentored by local activist Darren Freedom Green when she was a teen. Parker and her friends thought it was important to give Trenton a voice and hold a peaceful rally to tell officials that racism and police brutality will not be tolerated. They said they hoped the rally Sunday would be the first of many events to keep the pressure on officials to push for systemic change.
Called to the stage to speak by the organizers, Green encouraged everyone who attended the rally to mentor a young person. “Find a young person and mentor them. Find a young person and listen to them, and allow them to be better than you thought you could be. This young lady is nine times better than me,” Green said of Parker. “When you teach them, they will lead the revolution that moves us forward.”