A dozen or so protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ annual state of the city speech on Thursday afternoon demanding the mayor restore funding to summer camps and tender his resignation.
“We demand you restore summer recreation!” shouted Zellie Imani, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in Paterson, from the audience. “We demand your resignation!”
Torres did not halt his speech. He instead he shouted the same phrase over and over until the protesters were escorted out of the city council chambers. He did give in to a previous demand made by the movement when it spoke before the council earlier in the month.
Imani had called for a citizen review board to inject transparency into the Internal Affairs (IA) division of police.
“A massive objective of this administration has been to create a civilian review board so that we can work with the community,” said Torres. “So that we can bring transparency to the operations of our police department.”
The mayor mentioned his proposal as the hecklers were being escorted out of the chambers. The protesters for weeks have been marching and demonstrating in the city against police shootings that often leave black men dead on the streets.
Recently, the movement has latched on and joined city residents in protesting recreation program cuts put forth by the mayor to generate savings in a tax levy battle with the city council. Torres plans to shut down the city’s summer recreation programs by the second week of August which will leave 400 or so youngsters without summer jobs.
Torres has said he intends on keeping municipal pools open until Labor Day, but the other programs will close on August 12, 2016.