Teary march for Kashad Ashford

Teary march for Kashad Ashford

By Joseph Cirilo, Co-Editor and Gabe Wanissian, Sports Editor

HACKENSACK — Protesters lead by Chairman and founder of the People’s Organization for Progress (P.O.P.) Larry Hamm marched through Hackensack Dec. 6 in a demonstration for the death of Kashad Ashford who was killed this September by police officers at the end of a deadly car chase through South Bergen County.

Ashford was fatally wounded after a car chase ensued, triggering an alert in North Arlington about two men attempting to steal a car. Police, consisting of two local officers and one state trooper, surrounded Ashford as he attempted to flee through Lyndhurst into Rutherford in an SUV, according to NJ.com.

The march, which follows the P.O.P.’s recent protest in Newark for the death of Eric Garner, commenced outside the Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, consisting of local supporters, as well as a Essex County residents that arrived by shuttle bus at around 3:30 p.m.

An estimated 60-75 demonstrators marched through the cold and moderate rainfall from Atlantic down to State Street, converging onto Main to rally outside the Bergen County Courthouse.

Hamm urged protesters to remain in an organized, single-file column as they trudged down the road chanting refrains such as: “No justice, no peace.” and “They say get back, we say fight back.” The former of the two has become a mantra across the entire country, resounding from Ferguson, where the death of Michael Brown sparked a national outcry against police brutality and the perceived wrongful deaths of black citizens across the US in the eyes of the demonstrators.

When traffic began to build up, a county police officer leading the column from his vehicle asked the protesters to move to the shoulder and onto the sidewalk of State Street so that the congestion could be relieved, and demonstrators could continue without incident.

Protesters that expressed dissenting opinions of the authority’s response to mediate police brutality were not shy in sharing their insights as to how reform can take place.

“We’ve been trying to get Civilian Oversight on the Police Department,” protester Clifton Aarington told The Torch. “I believe the Newark Mayor has been working on that, along with state legislature.”

The courthouse is crowded with protesters

The courthouse is crowded with protesters

Outside the Bergen County Courthouse, Hamm lead protesters in a unified circle to warrant family and close friends of Kashad the opportunity to speak publicly.

“Kashad should be able to celebrate Christmas holiday with his family,” Hamm said, addressing his rapt audience. “We’re here today to demand justice for Kashad, we’re here to demand answers, and first and foremost we’re here today to say we want a face to face meeting with the county prosecutor, Mr. Molinelli.”

The Ashford family claims to have received no word from the Attorney General’s office, the Bergen County Prosecutor, nor any of the law enforcement officials offering condolences or assurance that an investigation is underway.

“I have a grandson 23-years-old that I buried, and today I know nothing,” Cecille Hepburn, Ashfords grandmother, told the crowd.

“I know it’s not gonna be no indictment, just give me some answers,” another member of the Ashford family pleaded. “All we want is answers.”

Hamm’s long time attorney, Bennett D Zurofsky was also present to support the P.O.P. lead march. Citing reasons for attending the demonstration ranging from the usefulness of being on hand for any potential arrests, and being dissatisfied with the progress of eradicating social inequalities that has seemingly stalled since the ‘60s Civil Rights era, Zurofsky’s perspective envisions issues beyond race.

“The biggest inequality in this country is the economic inequality. and because of the centuries racism, the black people get that the worst,” he told The Torch. “It’s always been beyond race, but the racism is there too, and theres unwillingness to acknowledge it.”

Hamm later went on to discuss the P.O.P.’s plans to march on Trenton and Lyndhurst possibly in January for Ashford following other protests already scheduled for this month in an interview with Torch reporters before departing with the protesters he’d traveled there with.

The unequivocal assent between everyone involved was that the fight, like so many that have emerged in the wake of the Brown-Wilson shooting in Ferguson, was far from over; a fact that both the family and the P.O.P. acknowledges, and has pledged their support in finding a peaceful, though meaningful, end to.

“This is gonna be a long fight, but we’re prepared for it,” Hamm told Torch reporters. “We’re gonna stay with the family and try to get some justice before this is all over.”

Video of Kashad Ashford protests in Hackensack: