BRIDGEWATER — Activists marched to Bridgewater Commons Mall on Saturday, nearly a month after police response to a fight there sparked widespread outrage over the very different ways the two teens were handled.

The People's Organization for Progress led what it called a “Justice for Z'Kye Husain March,” starting at Bridgewater Township Municipal Building.

A community public forum held on Thursday evening also covered concerns about the “recent incident at Bridgewater Commons Mall.”

Demonstrators on Saturday were accompanied by a police escort, as it had been offered ahead of time, reported.

Video of the police response, in which one Black teen — later identified by his family as eighth grader Z’Kye— was tackled and handcuffed while a teen with a lighter complexion was left unrestrained and briefly unattended, has since gone viral.

“We are marching to demand that the officers who racially profiled and brutalized Z’Kye should be fired, and they should be suspended immediately pending the outcome of the Attorney General’s investigation,” Lawrence Hamm, POP Chairman said in a written statement.

The organization also has been calling for the names of the officers involved to be released publicly, along with their disciplinary records and the body cam videos from the mall incident.

Public forum, after delays

On Thursday, after at least two canceled public meetings since the mall incident, a community forum involved a panel including Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench, Bridgewater Police Captain Sean O’Neill and Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson.

Bridgewater Police Chief Paul Payne said in a written statement that he learned a lot from the meeting and “I hope everyone who was in the room or watching from home did as well. I am proud of the work our agency has already put in on this front, even as I recognize there is a great deal more to do. I and every officer under my command remain eager to continue moving in the right direction with integrity and transparency.”

The actions of two Bridgewater Township police officers who responded to the February mall fight have remained under review by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office. reported both officers have been on desk duty.

Township officials said they could not comment on the ongoing investigation in order to guarantee its integrity, but that the conversation was "wide-ranging," spanning community policing, officer training initiatives, investigation procedures and protocols and 'a wide variety of other topics including personal stories and experiences.'

Also in attendance at the event were New Brunswick NAACP Chapter President Bruce Morgan, Pastor David Hobbs of Macedonia Baptist Church in Bridgewater, community activist Tormel Pittman and former Bridgewater Police Sgt. Art Atkins.

The panel answered questions submitted in advance, as well as those asked during the event, which was live-streamed.

“I want to thank the Mayor for the invitation to be a part of the panel," Pastor Hobbs said, "I see this being a starting point for us to go forward, and I hope and pray we continue to keep our relationship going so when adversity does come, we can always stay united with one perspective: to treat everyone with dignity and compassion."

“We had an honest, civil and productive discussion and we are eager for our community to move forward together,” a collective message reads on the site where questions had been submitted.

Activists interrupt a news conference that was supposed to have included the Rev. Al Sharpton (David Matthau/Townsquare Media NJ)
Activists interrupt a news conference that was supposed to have included the Rev. Al Sharpton (David Matthau/Townsquare Media NJ)

A day before the community forum, a news conference planned by the Husain family, with civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the Rev. Al Sharpton was disrupted by local activists — who criticized Sharpton and Crump as outsiders who were not sincerely invested in the community’s well-being.

Sharpton wound up leaving without publicly speaking at the Bridgewater Municipal Complex and Crump, Z’Kye and his family gave remarks from inside the police station.

Crump said on Wednesday that a federal civil rights lawsuit was being considered on the teen's behalf, because “it has to be documented that we will hold people accountable who discriminate against our children, because our children’s lives matter.”

teen fight at Bridgewater mall (Tamra Goins via Facebook)
teen fight at Bridgewater mall (via attorney Ben Crump)

Local activists, including Hamm, have been pressing for Bridgewater to do a racial bias audit of all aspects of its policing and present a plan as to how it is going to root out racially biased and discriminatory practices and policies in the police department.

“We are also calling upon the Bridgewater Commons mall to lift the ban against Z’Kye and the other boy involved in the fight and that the mall withdraw its demand that his family pay for broken furniture,” Hamm also said.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

carbongallery id="6224fc93cbd4b2073b2256d0"]

2022 Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge photos

More than 6,000 people took the plunge into the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 26, 2022 to raise more than $2 million for the Special Olympics New Jersey.

New Jersey's new legislative districts for the 2020s

Boundaries for the 40 legislative districts for the Senate and Assembly elections of 2023 through 2029, and perhaps 2031, were approved in a bipartisan vote of the Apportionment Commission on Feb. 18, 2022. The map continues to favor Democrats, though Republicans say it gives them a chance to win the majority.

Best coffee shops & cafes near NJ beaches

When it comes to food, New Jersey is known for many things such as pizza and pork roll. Don't count us out when it comes to coffee.

With all the hustle and bustle involved in the average New Jersey resident's day, coffee is essential. It doesn't matter whether you're living in the cities of North Jersey or the vacation spots at the shore.

In fact, as the former owner of two Jersey shore coffee houses, Coffee Dot Comedy in Sea Isle City and the Daily Grind in Ocean Grove, I know firsthand how much people at the Jersey shore love their coffee.

With respect to that, I asked my social media following where the best coffee houses at the Jersey Shore were, especially since my two places no longer exist.

Below is what they came up with. (And see this other article for their coffee shop and cafe recommendations for Central Jersey.)

2021 NJ property taxes: See how your town compares

Find your municipality in this alphabetical list to see how its average property tax bill for 2021 compares to others. You can also see how much the average bill changed from 2020. For an interactive map version, click here. And for the full analysis by New Jersey 101.5, read this story.

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM