(CNN)The mayor of a mostly white New Jersey township is apologizing for his comments during an anti-discrimination protest organized by residents of a neighboring community.
Protesters challenged Clark Township Mayor Sal Bonaccorso at a June 6 rally to say that he was “pro-black” and he responded by saying, “I am pro-black for all the good black people that I know in my life.”That didn’t go over well with the crowd, and several people could be heard expressing their disapproval in a video from the event.”Hey folks, listen, I can’t say I’m for anybody if I don’t know you. I’m for people. Good people, law-abiding, hard-working, good family, good friends, people with good intentions,” he said. “If you’re black great, if you’re white, great. If you’re Hispanic, great.People are tweeting about Black Lives Matter now more than at any point in the movement's history“It doesn’t matter. I judge people on how you judge me. If you wanna be my friend and stick your hand out, I’ll shake your hand. I’ll look you in the eye.”Read MoreThe group marched about 1.5 miles to Clark to honor George Floyd and to draw attention to the bad racial experiences they say they’ve had in the community.Speakers described being racially profiled, taunted with racial slurs and being worried they would be pulled over by police for being black, said Hanif Denny, who helped organize the event.The 27-year-old said black people have had problems in Clark for decades.He said Bonaccorso wasn’t originally scheduled to speak, but he was addressed by protesters, who didn’t think he was paying attention to the speeches because of “his mannerisms and his body language.” Protesters thought he was talking and smirking while people shared their stories, Denny said. Bonaccorso denied smirking when he started speaking to the crowd.”They saw him standing there and they were very displeased,” Denny said.In a statement posted Wednesday on the Clark Township website, Bonaccorso wrote that “If I didn’t care. I wouldn’t be here.””My goal when I spoke was to reiterate and affirm that we want Clark Township to be a place where everyone feels welcome. Looking back on what I said and seeing some of the public reaction to it, I see that I may have fallen short of that goal and I would like to clarify my answer to a question that was posed. An attendee asked me, ‘Are you pro black?’ The answer is of course, and unequivocally, yes. I also truly believe that Black Lives Matter,” he said.He said he takes pride in not judging people by the color of their skin and invited protesters to come to his office for additional conversations.”The black members of the Clark Community, those who live here, those who work here, those who are visiting and even those who are just passing through are all an integral part of what makes Clark such a great place,” he said.The mayor’s office said he had no further comment.When he heard the mayor’s remarks at the event, Denny said he thought the mayor “made a huge mistake.””It showed that he hadn’t been listening to the speakers that spoke previously,” Denny said.Clark Township is about 12 miles outside Newark, New Jersey, and a large majority of its nearly 16,000 residents are white, according to the US Census Bureau. Rahway has a large black and Hispanic population, and Denny said residents have to drive through Clark to get on the Garden State Parkway, a major north-south highway.