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Lawrence Hamm ’78 leads police accountability demonstration in Princeton

<h6>Sullivan Meyer / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Sullivan Meyer / The Daily Princetonian

This Thursday, People’s Organization for Progress (POP) led a demonstration in Princeton for police accountability. The protest was part of the Long March of Justice, a 67-mile march from Montclair, N.J. to Trenton advocating for reform in policing systems.

The demonstrators advocated for two bills in particular: S2656, which would make officer disciplinary records publicly available, and A4656/S2963, which would give municipalities the option to establish citizen review boards about police behavior. Critically, these boards would have subpoena power over people and documents, which would greatly expand police transparency and accountability.

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Lawrence “Larry” Hamm ’78 is the founder of POP and leader of the march. As a Princeton student, he was known for his activism, organizing a sit-in on Nassau Hall against the South African apartheid. More recently, he ran and lost against Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the 2020 New Jersey Senate primary, and served as the state chairman of New Jersey for Bernie 2020, Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) New Jersey primary campaign.

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Hamm advocated for the University and its students to take an active role in social justice activism. 

“I would hope that the students would come out as they did during the struggle for justice for George Floyd, to come out and march and protest and support the struggle against police brutality,” he said. “We need those student marches because the problem has not gone away … I hope the students who’ve been fighting on various issues for justice will join that fight in the towns.”

New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) attended the protest and spoke briefly on police accountability and progressive priorities. 

In her speech, she said: “We demand accountability … We need equal justice, equal employment opportunity, decent housing, access to health care, and the freedom to walk down the street or drive in your car and not worry about whether you’re going to get picked up, pulled out, and treated poorly.”

After the speech, Coleman spoke to the ‘Prince,’ echoing Hamm’s call for student activism: “I think the University has a great role because we've got brilliant students who are connected to communities of interest, who really care about those who are less fortunate than them and will show up in big ways.”

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POP collaborated with the Trenton-Mercer chapter of Our Revolution (ORTM) on the Long March for Justice. Our Revolution is a progressive political organization founded by Sanders in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election. Representatives from ORTM were present at the demonstration, including Joe Marchica, who is in the midst of a lawsuit against county clerks to end the practice of party-line ballots. 

When asked by the ‘Prince’ about how POP and ORTM’s objectives align, Marchica said, “We’re casting a wide net, but all of these issues are incredibly important.”

Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform (SPEAR) was also a co-sponsor of this march. On its website, SPEAR describes itself as “a Princeton University-based student organization that educates, advocates, and agitates against the carceral state on Princeton’s campus, in New Jersey, and beyond.” 

Speaking with the ‘Prince’ at the protest, SPEAR co-president, Gina Feliz ’22, said that stopping police brutality and implementing review boards are consistent with SPEAR’s goals. 

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“These are all things that SPEAR supports as an anti-carceral organization,” Feliz said. “[Stopping police brutality and implementing review boards] are really central to our mission to end police, you know, violence and brutality as parts of the carceral system.” 

Other policies advocated for at the march include ending voter suppression by implementing same day voter registration in the state, reparations for descendants of slaves, and Medicare for all. 

Over the next few days, the marchers will continue on to Trenton, ending on Saturday, Oct. 16.

Charlie Roth is a news contributor for the Prince. He can be reached at charlieroth@princeton.edu or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram.

Sullivan Meyer is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at shmeyer@princeton.edu or at @sullymeyer4 on Twitter.

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