City Council Speaker Christine Quinn struck Sonny Carson's name from a list of of New Yorkers to be honored with a street named after them because she thought the political activist was too divisive a figure. Carson was a proponent of black economic empowerment and was distemperate in his views of other New York groups (e.g., whites, Jews, Koreans). Councilman Charles Barron, who shares Carson's past as a radical activist, thought Carson's exclusion from the list was more divisive than anything Carson had ever done, and indeed, voting on an amendment Wednesday to re-add his name split almost entirely down racial lines and the session was extremely acrimonious.
In addition to heckling Council Speaker Quinn during the proceedings, Barron's chief of staff Viola Plummer vowed retaliation on Leroy Comrie, a black councilmember who abstained from voting on the failed amendment to support Carson's street-naming. The Observer elaborates on Plummer's remarks, which included "If it takes an assassination of his ass, he will not be borough president in the borough where I live.” When we remarked on a mention of an assassination yesterday, we figured Plummer was being metaphorical, but that sounds literal. Given the record of assassination in the civil rights movement (Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the killing of Councilman James Davis at City Hall), it's a pretty alarming thing to say about a black politician.
Councilman Comrie was assigned additional police protection Wednesday night after he left the council session and returned to his home and district in Queens. The extra security has since been waived. Barron is laughing the whole incident off, saying that Plummer and Comrie know each other and her remark was merely referring to a "political" assassination. Leroy Comrie is the Queens councilman who introduced the measure to symbolically ban the "n-word" earlier this year.
In 2003, the city was shocked when councilman James Davis was shot dead while inside City Hall's crowded chamber. His killer was a political opponent named Othniel Askew, who ironically managed to smuggle a gun past security because he and Davis were familiar with each other and the councilman waved Askew past a regular inspection by police.
(Photo of Charles Barron by Bebeto Matthews/AP)