Activists, elected officials and community member took to the streets on Aug. 19 in East Orange demanding justice for Black, unarmed 28-year-old Maurice Gordon who was fatally gunned down by law enforcement on the Garden State Parkway.
Around 500 students of East Orange’s Summer Work Experience Program led the “Jersey Wants Justice” march and rally that started at East Orange City Hall. Activists, Tamika Mallory, Jamila T. Davis, Angelo Pinto and TV personality Yandy Smith participated in the rally.
Several elected officials including East Orange Mayor Ted Green, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss were on hand.
“I want you to make a decision – make a personal decision – that ‘I’m going to be radical,’” Smith said at the rally. “Whatever that means for you, do it. Non-violently, be radical. Non-violently demand change. Start in your neighborhoods. Start with where you invest your time. Start with how you invest in your education.”
Gordon was fatally shot six times by white officer Sgt. Randall Wetzel of the New Jersey State Police on the morning of May 28 on the Garden State Parkway near Burlington Township.
Gordon was from Poughkeepsie, NY and police say he was speeding on the parkway. Dash-cam video of the incident shows Wetzel speaking to Gordon while Gordon was in his car. Gordon explains that his car died and Wetzel calls a tow truck.
While waiting for the tow truck, Wetzel offers to allow Gordon to wait in the backseat of Wetzel patrol car. After about 20 minuets, Gordon leaves the patrol car and the two can be heard getting into a physical altercation. A report from the New Jersey Attorney General states that Gordon tried to get into the driver’s seat of the patrol vehicle.
The physical interaction is out of camera range when Wetzel opens fire shooting Gordon six times killing him. Wetzel claims Gordon tried to reach for his weapon.
Grewal said the investigation is ongoing and a grand jury is reportedly reviewing the case.
“So we’re supposed to believe that the Attorney General’s Office is going to investigate their own officer, present it to the grand jury fair and impartially, and get an indictment – which now creates a civil liability for the State of New Jersey?” said William O. Wagstaff III, attorney for Gordons family, in one report. “And I’m supposed to trust that that’s going to be a fair and impartial process? No, sir. I don’t buy it.”
Demonstrators said that have several demands for Gordon to get justice including, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal releasing non-redacted audio and visual evidence of the killing of Gordon, the release of Gordon’s autopsy and toxicology report,
the appointment of an independent prosecutor for the case and a fair and impartial grand jury hearing.