Reports indicate that the picture of a body hanging from a tree in private Facebook group titled “Bayonne Talks Freely” is prompting officials in the city to call for an investigation over fears that Black citizens could be in danger.
The post stems from a comment over a video of a fight at an airport, according to reports. The image was reportedly posted by a user named Scott Guzzi with the accompanying message ““Time to Bring this back.” Fears of making the image a reality ensued causing elected officials to call for an investigation in to user. No arrests have been made.
About 4,000 belong to the private Facebook group “Bayonne Talks Freely,” which dubs itself as place where local residents can talk about things happening in the New Jersey’s Gateway Region. Users are able to talk about anything with out being censored or deleted.
The incident comes as an investigation continues over the death of Black 20-year-old Amanuel “Amani” Kildea, who was found hanging from a tree on June 28 in Lewis Morris Park in Morris Township. Law enforcement officials ruled the death a suicide but Kildea’s family and local activists believe he’s the victim of a lynching.
Bayonne has a large immigrant community with residents from a number of countries. The city is nearly 70% white and only 9% Black.
The city has grappled with racial issues. Just last month, city Board of Education trustee Michael Alonso was criticized over racist social media post about the police killing of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. Last summer, Neo-Nazi spray painted swastikas in public spaces including a park.
“Bayonne has a rich history of racism and bigotry. These comments are a reflection of the city,” activist and Black in Bayonne founder Camille High said in one published report. “The reflection in which the Black/ Brown community are forced to look at daily.”
Bayonne Mayor James Davis, reportedly contacted police about the Facebook post. He confirmed police and Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez are investigating.
“The people who are allegedly involved with this online posting are a very small group that does not represent the Bayonne community,” Davis said. “The City of Bayonne is adamantly opposed to racist threats and images.”The swift action and condemnation by local leadership demonstrates that Bayonne is ready to turn a new page separating itself from its past and hopefully moving into a brighter inclusive future.”
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, who’s district includes Bayonne, said in a that the Facebook posts are troubling.
“I’m upset to learn that people who live in my district would spew such racist remarks in this day and age,” she said. “This type of language and attitude is reminiscent of a hurtful past that my ancestors had to overcome and it pains me as an African American woman that people in my district would be so cruel as to post pictures of lynching and make such hateful comments.”
Gov. Phil Murphy is even weighing in on the situation. On Twitter, he urged New Jersey residents to reports any hate speech.
“Hate and bigotry have NO HOME in Bayonne or anywhere in New Jersey,” he said. “I stand with @AswMcKnight in condemning the racist and abhorrent comments on this Facebook Page and encourage reporting of any threats of violence.”