March in Jersey City protests cop killing of Drew Washington

By Joanne Kuniansky
October 9, 2023

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Chanting “Say his name: Drew Washington!” 100 people marched and rallied at City Hall here Sept. 20 protesting the Aug. 27 police killing of Andrew Jerome Washington.

He suffered from bipolar disorder. Handwritten signs included “Schizophrenia is not a crime! Bipolar disorder is not a crime! Justice 4 Drew!”

“A simple medical assistance call turned into a SWAT team killing,” Washington’s aunt, Lisa Mendez, told the Hudson Daily Voice. “He was in his apartment causing no harm to no one. The Jersey City police forced entry and shot him like a criminal after we begged and advised everyone at the scene he had a mental disorder.”

Police did not tell family members that Washington had been shot and would not allow them to ride with him in the ambulance, his cousin, Jasper Massey, told the Militant. He was pronounced dead within an hour of being shot.

Nia Mendez, another cousin, told the Militant that Washington had survived a police shooting 12 years ago. She had gone to find him at the hospital and took a picture of him on her phone. When cops demanded she turn over her phone she refused, was arrested, and spent the night in jail.

Within 24 hours of Washington’s death, Jersey City authorities attempted a cover-up. Mayor Stephen Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea claimed the shooting was justified based on one of the cop’s body-camera footage, which had not then been released to the family.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin stated that responding Officer Felix DeJesus fired his stun gun at Washington. Officer Stephen Gigante said after Washington came toward both cops with a knife, he fired his service weapon, hitting Washington twice.

“We have been dealing with Drew’s mental health issues for many years,” another of Washington’s aunts, Doris “Toni” Ervin, told the rally. “We want to take the shame away from those with mental health problems and make sure that Drew did not die in vain. Jersey City failed to act on state mental health laws. So many families have had loved ones with mental health problems die at the hands of the police. We couldn’t be quiet, sit back, and let this happen.”

The City Council in Jersey City refused to fund a mental health response program it had approved last year.

The march was attended by family members and supporters; the Black rights group, People’s Organization for Progress; and Lea Sherman and this Militant reporter, the Socialist Workers Party candidates for New Jersey State General Assembly and State Senate. Sherman and I called for indictment of the cops who killed Washington.