Community organizers focus on Camden layoffs

Church and community members in Camden, N.J., gathered for a day of social organizing to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday. On the eve of the layoffs of nearly 400 city employees, almost half of them police and firefighters, the focus was on public safety.

Marian Jones, a Camden resident and member of Camden Churches Organized for People, said many groups gather for service on MLK day, but there is a reason they opt for community organizing.

“One is like you give a man a fish, the other is you teach a man to fish,” Jones said.

In light of the layoffs, which has left residents feeling powerless, Jones said it is more important than ever to teach people that they have a voice.

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“We are very afraid,” Jones said. “I catch the bus, and I hear a lot of people talking, and for someone to think that they wouldn’t be, they must be living in another world. They’re not living in Camden.”

Jones’ group is calling on Camden residents to talk to elected officials about how the layoffs will affect them. She said the fight to restore jobs won’t stop when the layoffs begin Tuesday.

Camden firefighter Pete Perez attended the event with other colleagues who have already been laid off. He said he was disappointed about not seeing any elected officials there, but was glad that the community has his back.

“We’re all going to support each other, we’re going to be out here to support the residents of Camden as much as they support us,” Perez said. “We’re hoping to get our jobs back. We really are.”

Organizers say public safety cuts in the country’s second-most dangerous city conflict with Dr. King’s legacy of civil rights for all.

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