Charles Tyson, mayor of South Harrison, NJ resigned earlier this month citing racism and death threats against him and his family. South Harrison is a small town of 2700 people in south New Jersey that elects mayors to a one year term. By all accounts Mr. Tyson has performed his duties as mayor admirably over the past year but he was forced to step down from his position by what he calls a “hate group” in the town.
Tyson admitted that his family and his wife asked him to quit and not continue for a third straight year. He believes that his position as mayor is igniting racial tensions in town. He stated,
“I know that 95% of the people in South Harrison are the finest people you would ever want to meet,” “But as long as I am the lightning rod for a hate group in town, it is better for me to back off.”
Mr. Tyson received dozens of racist phone calls and emails during his two years as mayor. He has received death threats and some of his property has been damaged. Mr. Tyson’s tires have been slashed and a campaign sign on his lawn was defaced with the letters KKK. Tyson has also been shoved by a police officer in the town.
Because of the lack of police intervention to help in his plight, Mr. Tyson has hired civil rights attorney William Buckman who intends to bring in either the US Justice Department or the state attorney general to probe the case. The mayor is not the only resident in the town who has been subjected to racism. Tyson’s friend, Terence Jones, a fellow South Harrison resident was indicted on charges that he filed a false police report against police officer who he claimed was racially profiling him during a traffic stop in a neighboring town. A judge threw out the case and noted that the police officer not Jones who should have been charged. A year earlier Jones had complained that a man in a pickup truck had pointed a gun at him and shouted racial epithets at him but as was the case with his friend Mayor Tyson, a culprit was never found.
The sad thing about this story is that the racists have won this battle. Tyson and Jones’ cases have not been properly investigated by the police in South Harrison and it has forced a good mayor to resign. Tyson stated that a small group of people in the town were the perpetrators of the racism and some of them are long time residents. Both men’s cases are being taken on by civil rights attorney William Buckman who can hopefully bring the culprits to justice.