Newark Mayor Cory Booker might be awesome at saving people, but his decision to support a candidate for a vacant Newark City Council seat at a Council meeting last night prompted chaos—and the cops to pepper-spray people.
The Star-Ledger reports, "After weeks of jockeying for Rep. Donald Payne’s successor, Booker made an unprecedented personal appearance to cast the deciding vote with his council allies for Shanique Davis Speight, a longtime ally of power broker Stephen Adubato, over the angry objections of residents." And, boy, were they angry:
Booker's opponents supported John James, son of convicted ex-Newark Mayor Sharpe James. SEIU Local 617 President Rahaman Muhammad and others rushed the stage while Speight was being sworn in. The podium was toppled and police tried to remove the protesters, but Muhammad refused to go so the police pepper-sprayed him and others.
One witness told WABC 7, "The way they treated civilians, the way they treated people, as though we were rioters, began to mace people, I think that was out of control. I think the Newark Police Department was totally out of control." Unhappy residents and politicians are accusing Booker of circumventing the democratic process, while Booker's team says the move was totally within guidelines.
The Star-Ledger editorial board was disappointed and calls Muhammed's actions "thuggery":
The key moment comes at about 2:30 into this video, when Muhammad is storming the stage. The woman in red who is knocked onto her back is Shanique Davis Speight, an ally of the power broker Steve Adubato Sr. It was her appointment to fill a vacant seat on the council that sparked the ruckus.
To us, this looks like thuggery. It's hard to tell if Muhammad knocks her down deliberately or by accident as he struggles to escape the grip of a police officer. But either way, it seems clear he is making a physically threatening approach toward her, as her grade-school son stands by.
Muhammed was charged with assault.