Rally for Refugees Causes a Stir

Shortly after Thanksgiving, the SCDC shared information about a rally to support the Syrian Refugees.  The simple act of sharing that information set in motion an interesting chain of events.

On Tuesday, November twenty-fourth we were asked to spread the word among the Sussex County Democrats about a rally to support the Syrian refugees. This request came from several of the organizers of this event, which include Transition Newton, Socialist Alternative of NJ, NJ Peace Action, August 9 Saving Lives Task Force, Multifaith Peace and Justice Alliance, and Seeds of Peace (Morristown Unitarian Fellowship). The Sussex County Democratic Committee is not an event sponsor and is not connected to the event in any way. However, we happily obliged to share the information. The next day we posted the event on our calendar and on our Facebook page. The event also appeared in our weekly newsletter.

That seemed to be the end of the matter until Monday morning, December second. Beginning around ten o’clock, someone posed over two dozen comments on our Facebook page. Most of them were disturbing, but appearing on the post announcing the rally was a comment that was threatening. The person was blocked from the site and the posts removed. A short time later, we received word from one of the organizers that the rally event page in Facebook, the page run by the organizers, was also hit with many threats and ugly comments. That page was also cleansed and the authorities notified.

Many of all of the people posting on the organizers’ event page were from a group who call themselves the “New Jersey Second Amendment Rights Fighters”. It is unclear what interest a gun advocacy group has with refugees. That group was apparently made aware of the event because they monitor the Sussex Democrats Facebook page, and one of the monitors shared our own Facebook post on theirs.

Also on Monday morning, a conservative blogger circulated a story declaring that the Sussex Democrats support terrorism. The blog is typical of the extreme right wing style, filled with name calling and largely void of facts. Although this blogger typically posts once a week or less often, the topic was so enticing that the very next day a second story was distributed with the rather charming title “The Sussex Democrats Are Idiots”. It was essentially the same material.

On Monday afternoon, the New Jersey Herald posted an article about the rally, quoting from one of its organizers.

Some time on Monday, a group filed the paperwork with the County to hold a counter-rally. That group calls itself “The Country Rally against Syrian Refugees in Sussex County”. It is not clear if or how that group is connected with the New Jersey Second Amendment group.

On Tuesday, the Herald ran a story about the counter rally. That story does not identify who is responsible for that counter rally, nor are any of its organizers quoted. The article does quote Newton Mayor Daniel Flynn, who was openly critical of the original rally to support the refugees and its organizers.

The Newton Police are aware of the events. They will be at the site and will maintain order.

We placed a call to the offices of Sussex County’s state senator Steve Oroho, and our assemblymen Parker Space and Gail Phoebus. The office staff was not aware of the rally. To our knowledge, the representatives have not publicly commented on the rally, nor have they indicated whether or not they will attend.