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ACLU of New Jersey

12/20/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/20/2021 13:44

Racial Justice Groups Rally for Legislative Action on Key Issues

A broad coalition of New Jersey racial and social justice organizations gathered today at the Trenton War Memorial to call on the Legislature to take meaningful action on stalled bills and other issues that disproportionately impact communities of color. Speakers decried state lawmakers prioritizing legislation that benefit corporate interests over the needs of everyday New Jerseyans and our most marginalized communities.

"How can any community move forward into a stronger, fairer future without the legislature doing its part to root out systemic racial, social, and economic injustices? The broad-based coalition that comes together for this action demonstrates that New Jersey needs intersectional solutions and we need them now," said Amy Torres with New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. "A heartbreaking number of New Jerseyans have lost their homes, their savings, their loved ones, or their lives over the course of the last year and a half - but it's not enough to blame the pandemic alone. Deeply-rooted structural violence and callous policy priorities have undermined Black, brown, immigrant, and low-income communities for generations. With each day that elected leadership stalls, we risk losing more lives and losing the public's confidence in the legislative process."

"The 2021 state election results sent a clear message that voters want action on the issues that impact their day-to-day lives and advance racial equity, yet the Legislature has let these bills stall and let big lobbies take the lead," said Renee Koubiadis, Anti-Poverty Program Director for NJ Citizen Action. "Just last week the Senate Commerce Committee advanced a bill, S3611, that would open the door for predatory lenders to target low-income and financially strained families with exorbitant interest rates, trapping them in a cycle of debt."

Issues and bills that have stalled include abortion access (A4848/S3030), fairness in auto insurance rates (A1657/S111), same day voter registration (A4548/S2824), limiting police presence at polling places (A4655/S3595), a state reparations task force (A711/S322), criminalizing chokeholds by law enforcement (A4284 and S2617), public accountability for police (A5301/S2656, A2963/A4656, and A4578/S3730), protections and rights for temp workers (A6126/S4223), strengthening schools' public reporting on security spending and use of force on students (A4838/S2811 and A1184/S1020), and fully funding the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund. Advocates are also criticizing the advancement of bill A3450/S3611, which would give predatory lenders a loophole to avoid state protections that limit interest rates.

"The Reproductive Freedom Act can begin confront some of the inequities that push abortion care out of reach, but only if it keeps the focus where it belongs: on racial, social, and economic justice," said Alejandra Sorto, Campaign Strategist for the ACLU of New Jersey. "The Legislature has the power to make abortion accessible for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, gender identity, or immigration status. It's far past time for them to pass this bill."

"We have seen a lot of important reforms in 2021 - the Legislature and the Governor have worked hard to recover from the pandemic and to make New Jersey fairer and stronger for all. But there is much more to be done to truly further racial, economic, and gender justice in our state," said Elena Lavarreda, NJ Political Director at SEIU 32BJ. "Looking forward into 2022, it is our hope that the legislature will put working families first and move on important initiatives like the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the Fairness in Auto Insurance Rates (FAIR) Act, and the Reproductive Freedom Act to name a few. The advancement on social and economic justice are paramount to a just recovery."

"We at Fair Share Housing Center New Jersey stand firmly with our partner as we look to tackle issues of systemic inequality as with the FAIR Act," added James Williams, Director of Racial Justice Policy at Fair Share Housing. "Discriminatory practices like this keep the dollars out of families pockets, which keeps them from larger goals like homeownership."

Organizations that joined the effort include NJ Citizen Action, the ACLU of NJ, Make the Road NJ, SEIU 32BJ, NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice, NJ Institute for Social Justice, Fair Share Housing, Salvation & Social Justice, Latino Action Network, the League of Women Voters of NJ, BlueWaveNJ, Newark Communities for Accountable Policing, NJ Prison Justice Watch, and YWCA Northern NJ.

"With the rise of white supremacy and anti-Black legislation across the country, New Jersey must stand for progress in the area of racial justice. Yet several impactful racial justice bills remain stalled in our legislature," said Aaron Greene, Associate Counsel at the NJ Institute for Social Justice. "Lawmakers must act boldly and pass legislation to completely ban police chokeholds (A-4284/S-2617), enact same-day voter registration (A-4548/S-2824), prevent voter intimidation at the polls by removing police presence (A-4655/S-3595) and establish a reparations task force (S-322/A-711) to study slavery's legacy of structural racism in our state and make investments to address it. While states across the country are trying to suppress these conversations and policies, New Jersey must not waste the opportunity to be a model of democracy and justice in these fraught times."

"Because of unnecessary inequities and barriers in our voting system, people of color are registered to vote and participate in elections at lower rates than white voters. Same day voter registration will boost turnout for Black, Latinx, and young voters and protect voters of color from being disenfranchised on Election Day," said Assatta Mann, Community Organizer at the League of Women Voters of NJ. "The legislature must take immediate action to strengthen our democracy and reduce barriers to participation by passing A4548/S2824 ahead of the next election."

"The time for real civilian oversight of policing and true accountability has come, and these stalled bills are but a step towards the great overhaul needed in New Jersey policing," said Zayid Muhammad, Organizer with Newark Communities for Accountable Policing. "Public safety needs a full-scale transformation, but instead of prioritizing racial and social justice, elected officials have chosen to pass bills at the behest of police lobbyists. Our communities demand change - we must advance civilian oversight, accountability, and transparency in policing."

"In the quest for racial justice, actions speak louder than words," said Marleina Ubel, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective. "Despite continued calls for transparency and accountability in policing, state lawmakers have yet to advance a single piece of legislation that would result in the real police reform New Jersey needs to be a safer place for everyone. Communities across the state rightfully demand change; it's time for those in power to listen - and act."