IRVINGTON — Irvington police have turned over their investigation into a melee between township police and attendees at an anti-violence rally last month to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
The rally, held at Myrtle and Madison avenues to commemorate the shooting death of Saleenah Baines, 26, a pregnant township mother of three, and her companion, ended in the arrests of six people after police said they and other participants started blocking traffic.
The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition’s permit allowed rally participants on the sidewalk, police Chief Michael Chase said after the Nov. 24 incident. Those arrested face charges of resisting arrest and obstruction of justice. One person was charged with inciting a riot.
A rally organizer, Bashir Akinyele, said that police were unnecessarily aggressive and used pepper spray.
“They didn’t treat us like we were citizens. They treated us like we were criminals,” Akinyele said Tuesday. “We did everything we were required to do to hold a peace rally.”
Chase declined to comment on Akinyele’s allegations Tuesday, citing possible litigation and the ongoing investigation.
The mayor said he agreed with rally organizers who called for an independent assessment of the incident.
“We want a fair review of what took place and want the consequences to fall where they may,” he said.
Smith, who had planned on attending the rally but had a previous commitment, said a communications mix-up between the marchers and the police was the likely cause of the disturbance. He said he wanted to publicly apologize to the community for what he called a communications gap.
The coalition is asking for a federal Justice Department review of the incident and the creation of a township civilian review board, Akinyele said.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, Katherine Carter, confirmed that the office’s Professional Standards Bureau is investigating. The six people arrested are to appear in Superior Court in Newark today.