Demand RPD Drop All Charges Against Thria!

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One month ago, the Ridgewood Police Department (RPD) took a knee with protesters to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet on July 4th, that same police force arrested Thria Margareth Bernabe, a 22-year-old Ridgewood resident, for peacefully protesting in her hometown.

RPD, actions speak louder than words, and we hear you loud and clear: with this act of humiliation and intimidation, you showed your community exactly who and what you really stand for. We, as Ridgewood 4 Black Liberation, condemn this shocking and unnecessary arrest, and we demand that all charges against Thria be dropped immediately.

A little context: RW4BL, a group of Ridgewood residents committed to anti-racist organizing, hoped to hold a peaceful march on July 4th to demand racial justice in Ridgewood (see our working list of demands here). We hoped to exercise our First Amendment right to peacefully protest—and yet on a day supposedly about freedom, that right was taken from us.

Members of our group have attended marches all around Bergen County, many in towns similar to Ridgewood, all of which disrupted roadways, blocked traffic, and happened where virtually all marches happen—in the streets. Only in Ridgewood did the police decide to escalate on these grounds, and to arrest one of us for peacefully protesting.

Moreover, the charges brought against Thria typically result in a ticket or summons—not handcuffs, an arrest, a nearly four-hour detainment, a fingerprinting, and a mugshot. Thria should not have been handcuffed to a chair for nearly four hours in the same room as an officer who was not wearing a mask, simply for taking a few steps off the crosswalk. This overblown, inappropriately harsh response to a petty disorderly offense was a clear attempt to scare and silence us.

Thria—who is immunosuppressed—asked the officer processing her, who was not wearing a mask, to please put one on, and even offered one of the individually sealed masks from her bag. This officer was amenable to the request and even said that she “probably should listen to a nurse.” But even after admitting this, the officer chose not to wear a mask. Thria asked again before she took off her own mask to take the mugshot, and the officer still chose not to wear a mask. This is unacceptable, and the RPD must be held accountable for its lack of concern for public safety, as the implications of this decision could have been deadly. 

Thria’s attorney, Gregory Jachts, has called for an investigation into the "systematic trampling of rights" in the RPD. (Read his full letter to the attorney general of New Jersey here.)

In light of all this, we demand that the RPD begin to rectify the harm caused to Thria, her family, and the community they claim to serve. We demand that they immediately drop all charges against Thria, and we are calling on YOU to stand with us. Stand with justice, stand for your right to peacefully protest, stand with Thria and oppressed peoples everywhere. Demand that all charges against her be dropped immediately.

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