NEWARK, N.J. — A group of about 30 protesters arrived in New Jersey's largest city Friday afternoon to begin an "Occupy Newark" protest, greeted by the city's police chief.
Police Chief Sheila Coley, who awaited the group at Military Park, across from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center downtown, welcomed the activists by saying they had a right to protest non-violently.
"You certainly have a right to protest any issues you have, and we're here to make sure you're safe," Coley said.
The protesters spoke in a call-and-repeat form of communication, called "the people's mic," developed by Occupy Wall Street groups around the country who are prohibited from using bullhorns.
The Newark group chanted its appreciation to Coley for her words of welcome, with one woman yelling out that the words of thanks didn't express the sentiments of the entire group. Her comments prompted a call for a show of hands among the protesters as to who was committed to rallying non-violently, and the majority of attendees agreed.
Coley told the group she would waive the permit normally required to assemble in a city park and allow them to remain.
Those participating ranged from long-time Newark activists to a group of friends from Flemington who say they were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City to participate for the first time. Some in the group said they planned to stay in the park until 9 p.m. despite the dropping temperatures; others possibly to camp out through the weekend.
Kristine Manganelli said she was inspired by seeing media coverage of the large-scale protests in New York City on Thursday, and decided to participate closer to home. The 25-year-old Flemington resident said she had majored in English and teaching in college and was unable to find work in her field.
"I'm unemployed, and educated, and I want to get a job," Manganelli said, adding she had been angered by seeing critics of the New York City protests yelling at marchers to "get a job."
"I think it's terrible when there's people in their 20s unemployed. I want a job. I want to be part of this economy," she said.
A young boy banged on a drum as participants set up a "make your own sign" table with markers and pieces of cardboard. Protesters started assembling signs with a variety of messages, including one aimed at Newark's mayor, which read: "2011: Cory Booker's Salary: $135,228, Supported by 16 percent tax increase on the people. Average resident income: $35,507."
Newark resident James Sims, a member of the local chapter of the group The People's Organization for Progress, which has been protesting for a variety of causes in the city for years, said it was nice to have a new group joining the ranks.
"The more the merrier," Sims said. "I don't disagree with any organization that wants to help on social issues. We're spread so thin, that anyone who wants to help, we appreciate it."
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