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Daily Record Local News - ‘We want to keep him off our streets’

‘We want to keep him off our streets’

By Jon Zlock
Daily Record

MORRISTOWN — More than 300 protesters lined the barricades across from Richard Barrett on Wednesday and drowned out the white supremacist’s hate-filled message with a combination of boos, obscene chants and calls for peace amid madness.

"I just came here for the people," said 19-year-old Madior Murphy of Morristown. "My thoughts are we want to keep him off our streets. It’s all about love. That’s the message."

Still, "I wish I could cross these (barricades) so I can go over there and whup (Barrett’s butt)," the 19-year-old said.

While Barrett spoke strongly in support of racial profiling, the crowd of protesters lining barricades along Washington Street in front of the Morris County Courthouse opposed his message, called for an end to racism — and focused on sabotaging Barrett’s right to speak.

Among the chants: "Die Barrett Die." "Racist Rat Die." "Barrett means fight back." "Racist cops — fight back. Black and white — fight back. Men and women — fight back." Among the actions: shredding a Confederate flag, blowing whistles and banging on drums and street signs.

On the 57-year-old’s second consecutive Fourth of July tour through Morristown, his opponents remained at bay for the most part, keeping a little less than 100 feet from their adversary. They were close enough, however, to silence Barrett’s speech with their rousing chants for much of the mid-day.

When Barrett, the leader of the Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement, stepped up to his small podium and saluted a slew of crosstar flags shortly before noon, the large crowd began to jeer. When "God Bless America" came over Barrett’s makeshift loudspeakers, the jeers grew louder.

The day began in silence, as officers from 36 police departments lined Barrett’s cordoned parade route around the Morris County Courthouse, starting at dawn. It also ended in relative silence, as only a few straggling people stayed to heckle and watch Barrett and Gerald James McManus, his lone remaining supporter, remove their equipment.

From roughly 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., officers intently watched Barrett’s adversaries, but had few altercations — none physical.

"I am from Morristown," said Pete Spino, who wore a black bandanna over his face to "protect myself from pepper spray," he said. "I don’t want (Barrett) here."

Spino proclaimed himself an anarchist, one of many stationed to the west of the courthouse, just past the First Baptist Church. The group, most wearing the black bandannas, others wearing yellow rain gear, banged on drums and ranted while Barrett spoke.

Others demonstrated more peacefully.

Less than a mile from the courthouse, on Mount Airy Place, Lillie Crew, mother of Stanton Crew, the man shot dead by four police officers in 1999 after a police chase on Route 80, waited patiently inside her kitchen with daughter Ingrid while members of the People’s Organization for Progress drove from Newark on Wednesday morning.

The group arrived shortly after 10:30 a.m. with horns blaring.

"We have come here today to confront the evil of racism," said Lawrence Hamm, chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress. "Cancer starts out small — it sticks out like a dot — but it can grow and corrupt the whole body."

"We take this thing seriously," Hamm said. "Mr. Barrett has come here to make a statement supporting racial profiling. We came up here in one piece, and we’ll leave in one piece. No one is going to jail today. Barrett isn’t worth it.

"Not today or any day."

Lillie and Ingrid Crew then led the motorcade to the town Green, following the same path community members took Tuesday night for the town’s candlelight vigil.

"For someone to endorse racial profiling and police brutality, you’re slapping people in the face," said Ingrid Crew, 30.

The People’s Organization for Progress, based in Newark, arrived at Barrett’s rally a little before noon and immediately joined the chants. Armed with banners that read "End Racism Now," Hamm quickly led the group in a chant of "Get off our steps."

Barrett tried to speak over their chants.

Though most all of the town’s 15,600 residents stayed away from Barrett’s rally, some ventured into town to check out the hoopla, like Chip Frost and his 18-year-old son, Scott. Both live in Morris Plains. Both said they should have stayed home.

"It certainly doesn’t represent Morris County," Chip Frost said. "And it doesn’t represent Morristown."

"Let him stand up on his soap box and speak," Scott Frost said. "Nobody’s listening anyway."

Jennifer Evans, a 24-year-old manager at The Office Beer, Bar and Grill on South Street, said she didn’t like Barrett’s message.

"I’m with the people that say, ‘Equality,’" Evans said. "Freedom of speech is one thing. Freedom of speech and hating people is another."

Jon Zlock can be reached at jzlock@morristo.gannett.com or (973) 428-6629.

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