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Chaos Breaks Out At City Hall Following Controversial Vote

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

NEWARK, NJ -- 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.

isobel sprayregen November 21, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I disagree because no matter what the procedural problem was, readers are given no indication whatesoever as to what is the difference/disagreement between the two candidates/parties, which makes it all seem just a procedural problem, which I doubt.
Cee November 22, 2012 at 12:12 AM
It is sad. Ms. Speights does not do her job as a Advisory Board Member, what makes us think she can do her job as a Council woman. This is balant disrespect to the people of Newark. When you sell you soul to the devil there is a hefty price to pay. For all those that sit on the side lines passing judgment of what transpired yesterday, put yourself in their shoes. Yes, I agree there is a peacful way to settle things, but when you don't hear me then you will feel me. Take a look at Isreal and remember the wrath of GOD.
A. Newarker November 22, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Speights was only put on the council to give Booker another vote so he can giveaway the Newark Water shed to his political friends and backers.
terence baine November 23, 2012 at 08:35 PM
There is no such ordinance you are totolly incorrect.
Kareema Jackson November 27, 2012 at 05:58 AM
Cory Booker owes the boys at Bain Capital some payback. The Newark Watershed is one of the most pristine pieces of real estate in New Jersey. Booker's fifth vote in the guise of Shanique Speight will enable him to sell off the water rights of the people of Newark. The people have made it quite clear to Booker that they do not want this!

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