County News: Chaos Breaks Out at Newark City Hall Following Controversial Vote

Police subdue angry members of audience following attempt to replace Payne on council


The Newark Municipal Council meeting ended in chaos Tuesday after Mayor Cory Booker tried to cast the deciding vote in favor of a replacement for former Council President Donald Payne, who was elected to Congress earlier this month.

One man, Earl Best, a community activist known as Street Doctor, was hospitalized after being sprayed by police with pepper spray, he said after being released from University Hospital. South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka said his mother had also been sprayed.

Baraka said North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos called for a vote on Shanique Speight. Baraka, Councilwoman-at-Large Mildred Crump and Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif then left the dais after Ramos failed to acknowledge a motion by Baraka. West Ward Councilman Ron Rice told Patch outside city hall that he had deliberately stayed away from the meeting in an attempt to thwart a split, 4-4 vote on the nine-member body that would have allowed Booker to make the tie-breaking vote.

The council members had heard rumors previously that Booker would attempt to get Speight on the council, Rice and Baraka both said.

“They obviously planned to do this ahead of the meeting ... to me it’s a power-grab by the mayor,” Baraka said. 

After Booker invoked a law that gives the mayor a vote in the absence of a quorum, an attempt was made to swear Speight in, but a disturbance broke out among audience members, prompting police to respond.

“People in the crowd stood up and said it was unlawful,” Baraka said.

Rice said communication between the two council factions had largely broken down in the days leading up to the meeting. He also said the city’s corporation counsel had deliberately kept Rice, Baraka, Crump and Sharif in the dark.

“Some council members seem to be more equal than others,” Rice said.

“The mayor chose a totalitarian, old-school way to do this. This was a blow against democracy,” he added.

Booker could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

One man was arrested for assualt, ressiting arrest and inciting a riot, The Star Ledger reported. Speight was later sworn in by the city clerk, the paper also said.

Keith November 28, 2012 at 05:11 PM
An Editorial From Councilman Ras Baraka "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those that they oppress”. Fredrick Douglass You cannot plot the course of a man’s demise then expect to orchestrate the way inwhich he defends himself. It's convenient for some to focus on how a man responds to a robber in his home than deal with the fact that the man is being robbed. There are some that are embarrassed by the behavior of those that became unruly in the council meeting yet there are many others that are equally embarrassed by the obstruction of the democratic process. There are some that have no interest in the names involved or the folks to be appointed- that believe that democracy be preserved at all costs, and will respond to those that believe that it exists only for their personal convenience. I am appalled that the Mayor used every apparatus of this city from the CityClerk to NPD to circumvent the democratic process, and evenmore at those that believe that this should be expected in “politics”. The irony is that they expect those in power to abuse it and also expect people to take abuse quietly. There are those that argue "nothing justifies what happened in the CouncilChambers that night". There were those that were disgusted by the melee that erupted and there are those that were disturbed by the blatant disregard for democracy. It depends on who is telling the story and whose interest they serve.


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