A year ago, the town of Burlington was a place of political unrest and anger after a string of police killings of black people.
Now it is experiencing an economic boom that has led to record levels of unemployment, and the town is poised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers’ march on Washington.
But on Tuesday, the mayor of Burlingame, Kevin Kennedy, told the BBC that the town was still reeling from the death of a young black man, Walter Scott, on April 12, 2016, after a confrontation between the police and protesters.
“I think that, in our town, this is a really important moment,” he said.
“We are seeing people who are coming together, who are feeling the pain of this tragedy, who have gone through so much, and they are showing up to the streets to protest and to show the world that we can come together and fight back.”‘
I feel like I’ve seen the end of America’After decades of being under siege by US forces and the media, Burlington is now a thriving, thriving town, and residents have welcomed President Donald Trump’s call for a federal review of police violence and racial profiling.
However, some of the protests were held outside the town hall, with some protesters throwing rocks and firecrackers at the officers, who were not hurt.
“In the town meeting, we heard the police say that we’re not going to be able to protest,” said Burlington resident Dwayne Thomas.
“That’s not how I feel about this whole situation.”
Kennedy has also called on the US to recognise the Black Lives Matter movement as a legitimate and valid protest movement, as the local chapter has been active for years.”
It is very unfortunate.”
Kennedy has also called on the US to recognise the Black Lives Matter movement as a legitimate and valid protest movement, as the local chapter has been active for years.
But, the protest has also been met with some criticism from local officials, who believe that the city’s economic boom has enabled a black population to take a greater role in its affairs.
“This has been a place where we’ve been very happy to have a black mayor,” said Thomas.
“But this is also a place that has seen a huge influx of white people from the suburbs and other parts of the country coming in and taking over the town and the city.”
Kennedys office did not respond to a request for comment.
“If we want to see some change, we have to see the police department and other law enforcement officers being more accountable,” said Kennedy.
“To some extent, I think we can start by acknowledging the fact that this is not just about the Black community.
I feel like, in my town, we’ve seen that change and we’re seeing that we are starting to see a real change in Burlington.”‘
We can’t just stand idly by’Burlington’s economic renaissance has helped to revitalise the town, with restaurants, hotels, and art galleries opening, and it now has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state of New Jersey.
“It’s not about what we are, it’s about what the world is going to see,” said Dwayne.
“We can never really have that.”
But some residents say that they still fear for their safety, and many feel the protest will only further polarise the community.
“When we first started the protest, there was a lot of tension.
We didn’t want it to get violent,” said protester Jelani Edwards.
“But it was really hard to sit there and be there and hear these words being said.
We are still there, but the atmosphere has changed a lot.”
Burlington resident and artist Sam Ritchie agrees.
“There are people who don’t like this protest, who think it’s just a bunch of protesters,” he told Al Jazeera.
“And there are people that are there because they think that it’s a political statement.
But the fact of the matter is that, at the end, when the city has been turned upside down, that’s when we’re going to get our shit together.”
A week before the protests, Burlingames mayor made a speech to the city council in which he condemned the Black Panther protest as “not just a movement” but a “revolution”.
“We know that the Black movement is not only a movement, but a revolution,” he stated.
“In the 1960s, we saw that when we marched on Washington, the police beat us.
That’s how you end up with this kind of unrest.”
And we know that when people are fighting back, that they will come out on their own terms.