Ceasefire movement steadily growing in Northeastern Jersey
North Bergen march for Palestine, Dec. 20. | Cameron Orr / People's World

JERSEY CITY, N.J.—The people of New Jersey’s Hudson County and nearby areas are building a growing movement for a ceasefire in Gaza. One of the first actions, a teach-in and community healing event, was held in the earliest days of Israel’s war, on Oct. 17 in North Bergen. Since then, the movement has been gathering momentum, broadening its base of support and spreading throughout the region.

On Oct. 20, the New Jersey chapter of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP-NJ), Northern New Jersey Jewish Voice for Peace (NNJ JVP), North NJ DSA, and other groups mobilized nearly a thousand people, despite heavy rain, to pack Jersey City’s Journal Square, a major commuting hub. In the months that followed, dozens more marches, rallies, student walkouts, and vigils have been organized in Jersey City, North Bergen, Union City, Hoboken, Teaneck, Edgewater, Fort Lee, and Newark to immediately stop the ethnic cleansing being carried out against the people of Gaza by Netanyahu’s fascist government.

On Nov. 3, a march on city hall in Jersey City by what would soon become the Cease Fire JC coalition (now renamed to Cease Fire Now NJ) sparked a campaign to pressure the Jersey City Municipal Council to pass a ceasefire resolution.

Jersey City ceasefire rally, Oct. 20. | Cameron Orr / People’s World

The coalition has strengthened itself by building unity with the family of Andrew Jerome Washington III, who was murdered by Jersey City police earlier this year after his family had called the Jersey City Medical Center for help as he was undergoing a mental health crisis.

Meeting in front of city hall before the Nov. 8 City Council meeting, ceasefire and #JusticeforDrew activists spoke on the connections between police brutality in the U.S. and the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine. While speakers addressed the crowd, the NJ Friends of People’s World distributed a handout to the participants on “How to support the family of Andrew Washington,” which was developed in conjunction with the family.

The gathering then joined the council meeting, where most of those calling for a ceasefire resolution during the public speaking portion also echoed the demands of the Washington family. These efforts were successful in getting the council to vote down a proposal for a mental health crisis intervention program that did not meet the family’s demands. In turn, the family of Andrew Washington has also been supporting the struggle for a ceasefire.

The coalition went on to collect petitions for a ceasefire resolution in the city’s shopping areas, train stations, bus stops, and outside grocery stores and met with members of the city council.

On Nov. 29, Councilmember Yousef Saleh brought a ceasefire resolution to a vote. Due to disagreements around the resolution’s language, however, it lost support from many ceasefire activists while failing to neutralize opposition from ceasefire opponents. The latter opportunistically claimed that the city government should have no role in fighting for peace and insisted that calling for an end to the genocide in Gaza would increase division and incidents of hate crimes. The issue was tabled for a special meeting of the council set for the following week.

Afterward, ceasefire activists met with members of the council to work on the language of the resolution, and on Dec. 5, one day before the scheduled meeting, several hundred people again rallied in Journal Square at 6 pm before marching to city hall. The following morning, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) and AMP-NJ organized a conference at city hall, calling on Jersey City officials to vote for the updated resolution.

“AMP-NJ is calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Palestine,” a representative for AMP-NJ stated. “There are non-violent protests, sit-ins, civic engagement with elected officials, overwhelming public support for a ceasefire, and yet the U.S. government puts its head in the sand and ties itself to the genocide we are all witnessing real-time in Gaza,”

But when the vote came later that afternoon, the resolution failed to pass. Three council members voted in favor of it, but the rest abstained or were absent. Some of those who abstained stuck to the line that the council should not comment on international affairs, though a few of these had themselves voted in favor of a council resolution in 2021 in support of the Philippine Human Rights Act (H.R. 3884) to oppose U.S. assistance to the Philippine police or military under the Duterte administration.

Nov. 8 city hall ceasefire and ‘Justice for Drew’ action, Jersey City. | Cameron Orr / People’s World

Others said the ceasefire resolution was divisive and that the coalition should have come up with a resolution “everyone could agree on,” even though the resolution also called for special efforts to promote unity and combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and even though a key figure opposing the resolution was a former officer in the Israeli army.

“Our elected officials have been intentionally dodging our concerns for billions of our tax dollars going towards the genocide taking place in Gaza,” Meera Jaffrey of JVP North NJ Chapter told People’s World.

“When those billions of dollars can be used at home to develop programs to deal with homelessness, 24-hour mental health crisis intervention centers, food programs, and education instead, it is very much all of our business, and we need to hold all our elected officials accountable.”

While efforts for a ceasefire resolution in Jersey City have so far stalled, in Paterson and the nearby towns of Prospect Park and Haledon, resolutions were passed at the end of December.

Combating hate crimes and repression

Despite significant backlash from right-wing Zionist ideologues—as well as from institutions and companies supporting Israel’s actions, which have resulted in cases of punished workers and threats online—the movement has pressed on.

From protests organized by Rutgers University’s Endowment Justice Collective and Latino Student Council in mid-December to support the university’s wrongly-suspended SJP chapter (Students for Justice in Palestine) to those organized against the firing of various Arab and/or Muslim American workers who expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people, New Jersey’s ceasefire movement has continued to organize mobilizations throughout Hudson County, Newark, and other nearby areas.

Keeping vigil in Hoboken, Dec. 11. | Cameron Orr / People’s World

This has included a large student walkout at Teaneck High School at the end of November, and on Dec. 11 ceasefire vigil in Hoboken. Nine days later, hundreds marched over 30 blocks along Bergenline Ave., from 79th Street in North Bergen to 61st Street in West New York. On Dec. 28, many organizations gathered in Clifton, N.J. to protest L3 Harris, one of many weapons companies profiting directly from the occupation.

Then, earlier this month, Imam Hassan Sharif of Newark was shot just after Fajr prayers in the early morning of Jan. 3. Sharif was a beloved mentor, teacher, and member of Newark’s Muslim community, evidenced by the large numbers who came out the following Saturday morning for the Janaza prayer and funeral service held in his honor. Many have expressed outrage that the Newark police and many major news outlets have refused to identify his murder as a possible hate crime against a Black Muslim. The killer has still not yet been identified, and CAIR-NJ has announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Sharif’s murderer.

This is not the first incident of a targeted violent attack in the area, however. On the morning of Nov. 27, Palestinian-American Moath Hamzeh was assaulted in a hate-fueled attack in Jersey City after being asked about his ancestry. “After that, they continued to kick me, spit on me, and say racial slurs while I was down on the ground,” Hamzeh reported. Following the assault, Jersey City Mayor Stephen Fulop said the incident would not be investigated as a hate crime.

Additionally, on Dec. 22, community members across northeastern New Jersey gathered to express support for workers unfairly discharged or fired from their places of employment after engaging with pro-Palestinian content, movement efforts, or acts of solidarity, as well as simply speaking out against the ongoing genocide online.

Standing up against employer silencing tactics at ILD, Dec. 14. | Cameron Orr / People’s World

Ayah Mansour was an employee of Target in Edgewater for five years and was a salaried Executive Manager. After expressing support for Palestine on social media, customers seeking to silence her criticism of Israel put pressure on the company to fire her, and the company caved. They terminated Mansour’s contract in a meeting with her boss (the store director) and an HR business partner from the district. She was promptly doxxed online and did not receive prior notification from her boss about the subject of her meeting, nor was she notified in advance of her termination.

In a quote circulated by organizers, Mansour reported this incident to CAIR NJ and, regarding her own experience with Target, said: “I had posted a video of a man wishing girls in Gaza get raped, and it went viral. Because of this tweet, a Twitter account posted me and my LinkedIn telling his followers to email the head of HR for Target. They all mass reported me and filed fake complaints and ultimately got me fired.”

A petition being circulated by CAIR NJ is calling for Mansour’s reinstatement with back pay. On Dec. 22, protesters gathered in front of the Target at an action co-sponsored by CAIR NJ, Wheels of Palestine, the Palestinian American Community Center (PACC), American Muslims for Palestine NJ (AMP), and the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

A similar case recently unfolded in Union City. On Dec. 14, community members gathered to express support for Sidra Tariq, an accountant at JLD Tax Consulting, who was fired for participating in a global day of solidarity with the Palestinian people and their demands for a ceasefire. Protesting in front of the company’s 42nd Street office, the crowd then moved to the main thoroughfare around the corner for a speakout, calling on participants to leave negative reviews on the office’s Google page exposing the discriminatory actions taken against their former employee.

In nearby Kearny, 5/G & S Technologies also terminated an employee whose husband drove a vehicle that had a “Free Palestine” sticker on it.

Supporting a Edgewood Target worker fired for standing up for peace, Dec. 22. | Cameron Orr / People’s World

Continuing to build the movement

On Dec. 30, organizers held rallies for both ceasefire efforts and to honor the memory of Carl Dorsey, who was shot by a Newark police detective on New Year’s Day in 2021.

“As we showed in Newark, people around the world will continue to speak out against the atrocious genocidal attacks in Gaza until the killing stops,” said Stephen Marlowe from the New Jersey Peace Action based in Montclair. “Human decency demands that an immediate ceasefire begins and that a negotiated, lasting peace process takes place between the Palestinians and Israel.”

Various actions continue to be organized across the region. Many organizations and activists connected with the Cease Fire Now NJ coalition were among those marching in D.C. on Jan. 13 at the March on Washington for Gaza, including AMP NJ, JVP, NJ Peace Action, The Foundry Girl, and the Hudson–Bergen Club of the Communist Party.

Most recently, over 100 people rallied and marched in Union City on Jan. 18 to stop the genocide, showing support among the Latino population for a ceasefire. Union City has a large Cuban population and the largest Hispanic population of any city in New Jersey, and the coalition was able to partner with the immigrant rights organization Cosecha to mobilize for the action.

“What’s most important now,” Cameron Orr of the Hudson–Bergen CPUSA club told People’s World, “is continuing to build the movement, organizing city by city and block by block, putting pressure on elected officials at all levels—including those at the municipal level—to call for a ceasefire.”

Orr said, “It’s crucial now that we build maximum unity around the immediate demand for a ceasefire as the first step toward peace and the liberation of Palestine.”

To help build this unity, the NJ Friends of People’s World is organizing an evening of food, song, poetry, and struggle with community members and leaders involved in the struggle for justice for Andrew Washington and Bernard Placide, Jr., murdered by police Englewood; for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation in Palestine; for Starbucks’ workers right to a union; and in the local tenants’ rights and housing movement.

Organized under the theme of “Invest in Healing, Not Harm,” the event aims to highlight the more than $1.4 trillion going toward war, violent policing, mass incarceration, and deportations that could be going toward healthcare, housing, green jobs, education, and other people-helping programs.

The event will take place on Thursday, Feb. 8, beginning at 5:30 PM at the Mary McLeod Bethune Center in Jersey City’s Greenville community.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


CONTRIBUTOR

Majorca Bateman-Coe
Majorca Bateman-Coe

Master’s student in the School of the Arts at Columbia University’s School of Arts. Focusing research on a thorough analysis of new media’s representations of poverty, the sociological process of urban spaces falling into decrepitude, and the implementation of violence in new media narrative formats.

Comments

comments