As a peaceful Black Lives Matter march made its way through Franklin Township, N.J., the group protesting against police brutality and systemic racism walked past a white man kneeling on the neck of another white man in a mocking reenactment of George Floyd’s death.
The men were part of a group of white counterprotesters with flags supporting President Donald Trump and “Blue Lives Matter” that barked, “Black lives matter to no one,” and “Police lives matter,” at those marching on Monday to remember Floyd, the unarmed black man whose death after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes has sparked widespread protests.
“This is what happens when you don’t comply with the cops!” yelled the man who was kneeling on the other man’s neck, according to a video shared to social media. “Comply with the cops and this wouldn’t have happened! He didn’t comply!” (Floyd did indeed comply with police, according to the criminal complaint filed against the officers.)
The man added, “It’s his fault he’s dead, not the cop!”
New Jersey’s Dept. of Corrections confirms its officer is in this video from a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration in Franklinville.
— Darlene Melendez (@DarleneMelendez) June 10, 2020
On Tuesday, after the angry encounter was denounced by state leaders and law enforcement, one of the men in the video, a corrections officer, has been suspended, while another was fired from his job at FedEx.
The New Jersey Department of Corrections announced the suspension of a senior corrections officer at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, N.J., who has also been banned from state facilities “pending a thorough and expedited investigation.” The corrections officer has not been identified.
“We have been made aware that one of our officers participated in the filming of a hateful and disappointing video that mocked the killing of George Floyd,” the department said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Observers on social media noted that the man dismissed by FedEx was the same person shown kneeling on a white man’s neck as part of the jarring reenactment. Many on Tuesday, including actor-rapper Ice Cube, called for the FedEx employee to be fired for his racist actions.
“We do not tolerate the kind of appalling and offensive behavior depicted in this video,” tweeted FedEx, not naming the former employee. “The individual involved is no longer employed by FedEx. We stand with those who support justice and equality.”
The swift response to the reenactment came on the same day that Floyd, 46, was laid to rest in Houston amid weeks of protests that have gripped the nation.
The video was condemned by New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who called the actions of the men “repugnant.” Franklin Township Mayor John Bruno and Police Chief Police Chief Brian Zimmer released a joint statement Tuesday denouncing the actions of “certain individuals.”
“This is not who we are as a community,” the statement said.
The sentiment was echoed by NJ PBA Local 105, the union representing state corrections officers. “We need to continue practicing tolerance and understanding; not discrimination and hate,” the union said in a statement.
In a video shot by one of the counterprotesters, police are shown escorting about 70 marchers down the Franklinville section of the township. The group of white people had gathered on the side of the road on private property, according to NJ.com.
As the protesters made their way down the road, one of the white men dropped facedown to the ground. Then, a man in a backward cap began to kneel on his friend’s neck as he berated the protesters. A counterprotester is heard on a video responding to chants of “Black Lives Matter,” with “to no one.”
“This is unacceptable and disturbing,” tweeted Lexi Fagotti, a Stockton University student who posted one of the videos of the incident to Twitter.
The marchers told reporters that they were appalled by the scene.
“That was a real person, yes, that was willing to get down and show such hate,” resident Russell Sampson said to WPVI.
Daryan Fennal, the 21-year-old organizer of the protest, said he was overcome with emotion when he saw the white men reenacting Floyd’s death.
“It automatically brought me to tears,” Fennal told NBC10. “The display yesterday showed me that racism is real, racism is alive, it’s right next door to you.”