By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

ATLANTIC CITY — The attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6 was a jarring incident for many here in New Jersey, the United States and around the world.

Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the “People’s House” and shattered windows, destroyed furniture, stole property, vandalized hallways and literally chased Senators and House members from their chambers. In the process, they created the kind of images we have come to criticize, even ridicule, when we see them from other countries.

We’ve learned that not only was there little security to keep these lawbreakers out of the Capitol, the rioters were given aid by some in law enforcement. Police officers, CEOs of companies, military veterans, attorneys, elected officials and others took part in the debacle.

It has not been lost on many that the response to peaceful protests by Black Lives Matter and social justice activists in Washington, D.C., was much different this summer and was met with a striking police presence. The difference has been unnerving.

Front Runner New Jersey asked several African American and Latin American leaders in South Jersey to share their feelings on what happen in the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot and what they think it will mean for the country going forward. Here are their responses:

J.T. Burks, founder of Positive Vibes Community Group, Millville

“It’s terrible and disheartening but we must stay the course and promote black unity and positivity.”

Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, president of LUPE Action

“As an immigrant whose parents fled political violence and war, it was a day I thought I would never see in American Democracy. We witnessed an insurrection fueled by the President of the U.S. His disregard of the American System of Democracy will go down as one of the most shameful acts in American history. I for one couldn’t believe those people just stormed the US Capitol — they were a mob, a violent mob of white supremacists who were not afraid of the police or of the American judicial system. Imagine if a Black & brown person did that. There would have been a different, heavy, oppressive response to squash it. However, they took the violence directly to endanger elected officials’ lives, and I hope Republicans learned their lesson. They cannot just turn a blind eye against Trump’s incitement of insurrection because the mob is also coming for them.”

Will Cunningham, senior legislative counsel, U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, from Vineland

“The aftershocks of last week’s events are twofold — the unforgettable desecration of our Capitol building, and a double standard and privilege on full display. Trump’s lies and four years of stoking tensions predictably boiled over, and Congressman Jeff Van Drew enabled it all. There must be accountability for what occurred.”

Stephenine Dixon, nationally-recognized political campaign organizer from Atlantic City

“My initial thoughts were ‘entitlement.’ If you’re not a person of color this is a receipt of what’s been happening all along and was just exposed through Trump’s political incitement. It was exposed in real life  and the peaceful marches during the Black Lives Matter protest have shed light on the injustices of Black people and how people of color are still fighting for their civil rights and equal partnership across the board.

“It’s ironic that this happened on the back of an historic race when a Black man named Raphael Warnock won the Senate seat in Georgia and it showed that people of color are making a statement through educating each other to come out and vote in unprecedented numbers to take lead. It’s important to have like-minded people in place to help change the course in Civil Rights to reflect no more silence and to add the pieces that were deleted to ensure equality and justice for all.”

Dr. Oscar Holmes IV, Associate Dean, School of Business, Rutgers University-Camden

“The failed coup attempt incited by the sitting President is reprehensible. Not only should the President be immediately removed from office, but all the elected officials who agreed to challenge the electoral college vote should be expelled from their offices for treason. Though the Capitol’s insurrection was horrific, unfortunately, it was not a surprise to many of us in Black America. These events show us that the United States of America must confront our legacy of racism and white supremacy or our nation will continue to suffer.” 

Albert Kelly, Mayor, City of Bridgeton

“It shows that racism is ever present in our society. We would like to think that we have moved past racial discrimination in America, but the events of this past week have shown that we have more work to do in order to be an unbiased democratic society. As I watched the events unfold, I wondered what would have happened if the majority of these demonstrators were Black and brown citizens. It goes without question that we would have been treated vastly different than my white brothers and sisters. I hope this event will wake up our minority population to stay awake and to stay involved while we hold our elected officials accountable to the needs of our community.

Rann Miller, influential education columnist who directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, Camden

“The events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021 was a coordinated attempt by some to reestablish white rule in the United States. Their dispute was with the multiracial and multicultural electorate that voted out Donald Trump; whom TaNehisi Coates call ‘America’s first white president.’ It is imperative that events such as these activate Black people and the entirety of the African Diaspora to petition the United Nation Human Rights Council, in the spirit of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, to investigate the United States for its crimes against Black people as a form of pressure to protect the integrity of multiracial and multicultural rule.”

Mimi Nambo, Atlantic City community activist

“As a country, it’s heartbreaking and saddening that lives have been lost and people have been hurt as a result of last week’s attack on the Capitol. As people of color and American citizens, I believe we need to continue to exercise our rights to vote and embrace candidates who promote love, equity and unity while embracing individualities. There’s strength in our unity, diversity and most importantly FAITH.”

Imani Oakley, North Jersey director of Progressive Democrats of New Jersey

“What we saw was the result of unchecked white supremacy. For years we’ve been saying that white supremacist violence and terrorism are the biggest threat to our country and hopefully now this threat will be taken seriously by our government.”

Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas, influential columnist and South Jersey community activist

“As an American of Puerto Rican descent, I welcome president-elect Joe Biden’s victory speech and his comments ‘to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country … and defend democracy.’ In the aftermath of a racially motivated attack on our nation’s legislative branch of government, my hope is that once sworn into office, he commits the full weight of the President’s office to thoroughly investigate the lax security at the Capitol on January 6, the actions of the authors of the planned attack on our institution of government and search for the members of the murderous mob; to instruct the justice department to mount a vigorous and responsible prosecution and offer unconditional support to all the people of America in restoring our faith in our democratic form of government. The cause of racial harmony and justice demands nothing less.”

Kaleem Shabazz, Atlantic City branch NAACP president and council for City of Atlantic City

“The events that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 6th following a rally convened by President Donald J. Trump were hideous displays of violence and disrespect for law, civility and security. The NAACP always supports nonviolent, peaceful protests. The Trump riot was not peaceful — but was in fact violent and feared to destroy our government. I am appalled at our fall into mob rules incited by the highest elected official in our nation. Some have asked if the rioters were people of color, would they have been treated with what appears to be leniency by law enforcement? The NAACP condemns and denounces in the strongest possible terms the riotous behavior displayed and the attempts to disrupt our democracy. The NAACP also strongly opposes the outrageous and odious behavior of President Trump. All who took a part in violence must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The spectacle of January 6th must never happen again. We as Americans must ban together to declare that lies, hatred, and misinformation will not be tolerated.”

Henrietta Shelton, founder of Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation, Atlantic City

“January 6 on Wednesday was a day I will never forget. While viewing the coup on our capitol, I was upset and could not believe what I was witnessing. After seeing and knowing the type of followers/people No. 45 have, I remembered and realized just how much hate we have in America. Now the world could see the racism that was never addressed properly in these United States. No. 45 for four years gave permission to the haters to demonstrate in public freely. They no longer had to hide their hate and white privileges from the country or world. They all took off their White sheets (KKK) and marched with the support from No. 45 and other government official who supported this lie and their views.”

LaDaena Thomas, Mayor, City of Penns Grove

“I am truly disappointed and heart-broken about the condition our country is currently in. Freedom of speech is our right here in America. However, there is absolutely no place for violence in protesting. Protesting is about getting your message across — being heard — so that those who are in the position to make change can understand the issues. But in order for issues related to the economy and education to be fixed, Republicans and Democrats MUST work together for things to be passed, signed, and implemented. I hope the investigation identifies how the Capitol was overtaken and that those accountable for the deaths of the two officers are brought to justice.”

Quanette Vasser McNeal, Cape May County branch NAACP President

“As I sat and watched the events play out on live television, I was in shock, disbelief. I knew what I was watching was real, but it was hard for me to conceptualize the imagery flashing on the screen. So many questions ran through my mind: ‘What is happening? How is this happening?’ It was as if I were watching a movie or events unfolding in some foreign country. I thought, ‘This certainly couldn’t be our great USA.’

“When I saw the masses of predominantly white U.S. citizens freely walking the streets brandishing guns, climbing the side of the Capitol Building, walking freely through the Capitol, sitting at desks, taking pictures of themselves while committing such heinous acts, and posting them, I thought, ‘We are under attack; this is domestic terrorism.’ What a prime example of what white privilege looks like. I mean, really think about it. Can you imagine how much blood would have been shed and lives lost if those white thugs were Black? Let us not forget what happened to Miriam Carey; all this young Black woman did was make a U-turn and she was shot dead. 

“The national level of the NAACP has said the time to impeach is now. I feel it’s long overdue. The commander in chief has proven time and time again that our democracy is absent from his list of priorities. We cannot continue to allow President Trump to place our nation in peril. It is infuriating that now with only 2 weeks to go and with the events that took place 1/6/2020, some folks are finally taking a stance and saying, ‘Yes, I’m a Republican, but President Trump should be impeached.’ This man has been the same person since he took his oath as he was on 1/6/2020 and as he is today, and yet they stood by his side. It is unconscionable. Nevertheless, the efforts of this chapter will continue to be to press on. It is the mission of the CMC NAACP to continue the fight for democracy and the fight for political, educational, social, and economic equality for all citizens.”

Damita White, Bridgeton educator and co-founder of the Divine 9 of Cumberland and Salem Counties

“I am not surprised by the Capitol riot. It was just another example of white privilege in America. This mess has been happening for years and will continue to happen. My question is, ‘What are we as a race of people going to do that will make the greatest impact that will be felt for generations to come?’ We as people of whom are leaders, lawmakers, role models, advocates, business owners, hard-working people etc., have to put aside our differences and work together to make the changes that are needed. We are the ones we have been waiting for, so let’s get to work.”

Samantha Whitfield, Willingboro Township councilwoman, President Willlingboro & Vicinity NAACP

“The violent mob of domestic terrorists that descended on the nation’s capital Wednesday was the boiling point of reckless leadership we have endured for the last four years. This coup, incited by Donald Trump, was a planned assault on our democracy disregarded by law enforcement despite having over a month to prepare for the potential threat. It highlights the assumption of white innocence and the systemic support of white supremacy that is woven into the fabric of our country. We must not compare the Black Lives Matter protest to the hate and rage that was displayed on January 6th. Rather the events of the day need to stand and be recognized for what it was: Insurrection! This violent uprising has left another ugly stain on American democracy and now is the time to dismantle the systems of oppression that have long been upheld and/or overlooked once and for all.”

Loretta Winters, president Gloucester County NAACP, Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, South Jersey Federal Credit Union

“What we witnessed on Wednesday was the epitome of white privilege. It was the manifestation and culmination of reckless leadership. It was an insurrection and a failed coup by a mob cultivated by President Trump to assault our democracy. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions that placed members of Congress, the VP elect, and staffers in harm’s way. Criminal investigation and charges must be brought against those that committed these acts.” 

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