On June 8, 2020, history was made. For the first time since school was closed nearly three months prior, current students, alumni, and supporters of Hopatcong High School attended a group protest for the Black Lives Matter movement at Modick Park.
The protest was organized originally by two current seniors at Hopatcong High, Fernando Leyva and Sean Cranmer. This duo eventually expanded into an eleven person group set on pursuing peace, and calling for the end to racism in Hopatcong and the United States.
Upon arrival protesters were reminded to wear masks, stay hydrated, and create signs if they hadn’t done so already. It was also addressed that violence would not be welcome in any form. Then speakers began to make their trek to the gazebo in the center of the lush landscape. Honks of cars were heard as alumni Jessica Alvazerz and junior Alyssa Alvarez sang the national anthem. As the solemn words rang through the park, protesters took a knee much like Colin Kaepernick and his 49ers teammate Eric Reid did in 2016.
Later, Jessica Alvarez took the stage to give a speech on acknowledging white privilege. Afterwards, various organizers and protesters took the stage to give speeches on racist instances within Hopatcong, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, in addition to calling for the defunding and reallocating funds for police departments. After a march around the perimeter of the park, an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence commenced in honor of the late George P. Floyd Jr. Another March commenced, followed by an open mic session.
The entirety of the protest was peaceful; no incidents of violence occurred when over 200 protesters came together in a time of need to support a cause. The Hopatcong Police were aware of the event and were present to “ensure security from suspicious individuals” as stated by Mr. Leyva. Peace, acceptance, and justice led the march toward an equal nation. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Take with that what you will, but don’t sit idle; make your voice heard, in whatever way possible you can during this time. The takeaway, as keynote speaker Rachel Stewart exclaimed, was, and still is “POWER TO THE PEOPLE!”