Seaside BLM protester accused of assault says it was self-defense
SEASIDE HEIGHTS — A Black Lives Matter protest organizer accused of hitting another man on the boardwalk during a demonstration on Saturday said he acted in self-defense after the man touched him first.
Seaside Heights police said 28-year-old Jamaal Holmes, of Toms River, was charged with simple assault after an altercation Saturday afternoon with a 68-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed. WOBM, sister station of New Jersey 101.5, was among the first to report the incident.
On a video posted Saturday on his personal Facebook page, Holmes says that the man hit him while trying to pull a mask off Holmes’ face.
According to police, however, Holmes hit the man in the “facial area,” after which the man fell backward and hit his head on the boardwalk.
In the same Facebook video, Holmes says that the man also spit in another protester’s face and that police did not take any witness statements Saturday.
A message for Seaside Heights police asking about whether witness accounts were taken was not immediately returned Sunday. A message for Holmes' attorney also was not immediately returned.
The Guy Fawkes mask worn by Holmes has been adopted by anti-establishment efforts en masse since its depiction in the graphic novel-turned 2005 film, “V for Vendetta.”
A separate Holmes video, which is aimed down at the boardwalk, has audio of moments leading up to the incident. A man’s voice is heard demanding that Holmes remove the mask, during which Holmes continues to chant “Black Lives Matter.”
“Take the mask off, you scumbag,” a man can be heard shouting while briefly being seen in the camera’s shot with his own facial covering pulled down. What appears to be a struggle then erupts along with gasps from nearby people.
A different man’s voice can be heard in the video saying, “That’s what happens when you lay hands on people, buddy.”
Another participant in the event, Boaz Matlack, said the “March at the Boards” protest against police brutality and racial discrimination drew up to 30 people at its peak, which fluctuated to a dozen by the event’s end.
The group gathered at 2 p.m. near the Sawmill Cafe before marching down to the end of the boardwalk and back to the group’s own public address system, where they ended with speeches, according to Matlack. Video from the march also was posted to Youtube, showing about two dozen participants.
A flyer posted on social media about two weeks earlier told participants to wear masks and stay hydrated while staying safe, amid the continued pandemic.
Holmes previously co-organized a BLM march in his hometown in June, during which he thanked Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer for taking part along with other law enforcement officials, as reported by Patch Toms River.