Could ‘coronavirus’ police barriers in New Jersey’s black dominated cities be racial profiling?

Ama Nunoo April 03, 2020
Photo: The New York Times

There is a dicey situation going on in New Jersey as four of its blackest cities are on lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The number of COVID-19 related deaths are more than 300 and local police have been deployed to help enforce the lockdown.

Some residents in Newark, Irvington, Orange and East Orange are not adhering to the social distancing directives hence the need for the police to be enlisted to make sure residents do not flout the rules.

The police have been stationed at the borders of the towns to prevent residents from moving about unnecessarily. The drivers when stopped are asked to complete a one-question medical questionnaire with a procedure described by as “Police in Newark, Orange, East Orange and Irvington will stop drivers to ask where they’re going.”

Some, however, argue that the stay-at-home order covers the entire New Jersey, but only the police forces in the four neighboring cities with the biggest African American population are to patrol the borders to prevent black residents from further spreading the virus.

To them, this is the police’s way of targeting black people with the coronavirus epidemic. Their reason being, Essex County a predominantly white settlement has four cities whose population are much higher than Orange.

Nonetheless, no police borders have been set up in any of those cities to ensure social distancing is being adhered to. Also, they are at liberty to move across cities into the four African American dominated cities without much hassle, and they won’t have to answer any one-question medical questionnaire before they spread the virus to the blacks, that is if they have it.

Statistics reveal that Newark has New Jersey’s biggest black population and East Orange is 88.0% black. Irvington has 85.6% blacks while Orange is made up of 72.7% blacks.

Are the concerns of these disgruntled blacks legitimate because over in Lakewood, people were still holding funerals that had to be broken up by the police. There are no police barriers in that city yet. Or will there be after such an incident happened yesterday?

In any case, drivers who are caught flouting the lockdown will face summons when it is established that their travels were non-essential. According to Newark Public Safety Director, Anthony Ambrose, about 1,018 cars were stopped at the Newark border to Irvington last Tuesday night.

Close to 200 of the people who were stopped were out for non-essential purposes and were asked to return home. No driver was issued a ticket on the first night of the “racial profiling” health initiative, however, the police say henceforth, drivers caught acting contrary to the lockdown rules will be issued with summons.

COVID-19 is no respecter of race, color or status. If authorities in New Jersey believe establishing police barriers in four predominantly black neighborhoods will curb the virus, then they might as well put up the barriers all over New Jersey to keep everyone safe.

Clearly, people outside these four cities are also having a hard time adhering to lockdown procedures too.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: April 3, 2020


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