Defiant Baraka Goes on Offense after Supreme Court Decision

Baraka and Fulop

While Governor Phil Murphy delivered his budget address in Piscataway, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka stood on the steps of City Hall to put an exclamation point on his denunciation of the State Supreme Court’s decision limiting the powers of the police Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB).

In a 6-1 opinion issued last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court slowed Newark’s march toward community-led police accountability by holding that existing laws limit the powers of the City’s historic Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), reversing in part an earlier appellate court ruling, according to the American Civilian Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ).

Long a champion of a robust CCRB who advanced a reform agenda as the leader of Newark, which resulted in the formation of a local board targeted by the court’s decision, the mayor cited a huge peaceful rally in Newark in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd.

He cited those activists, clergy members and community leaders who all joined to proclaim unity and protest in the face of police brutality on that day.

“They protected the police and this community and dammit it’s time for you to protect us,” said an angry Baraka.

“We’re going to fight this appeal,” he added. “We’re going to fight this case. We’re already working on submitting something to the higher court. …We’re going to win.

“It’s incumbent on us to win together.”

At their scheduled press conference, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren stood with Baraka in solidarity on this issue.

Fulop was equally forceful.

“If you think about, and if you read about it in the papers… police chiefs get these long-term contracts – so there’s no accountability,” said the mayor. “What it means is the police chief has the ultimate say on everything. In New Jersey we jave these laws that say because you have these ultimate powers that also protect you from the people you’re policing.”

In the aftermath of the Newark George Floyd rally, InsiderNJ wrote this:

Neither was [activist Larry] Hamm unprepared for the hundreds of masked people who found their way to the Lincoln statue to demand justice for George Floyd, killed by police in Minneapolis Minnesota last week. The days subsequent to the killing spawned strife and mayhem in cities around the country. Hamm, for his part, led a peaceful protest, in keeping with a life’s work defined by the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The anger out there now suggests that for many at this criticial juncture in our country’s history, peace is an insufficient instrument to get through to a cocooned establishment that inludes a Twitter-raging, divisive and hateful president and elected officials, media and institutions that in a substantial range of instances have abandoned the people’s work, and in some cases have abandoned it utterly.

“This is a perennial issue: nonviolent versus violent,” Hamm told InsiderNJ. “I don’t like hurricanes. I don’t like tornadoes. I can’t control a hurricane. I can’t predict when it’s going to come. I’m not going to condemn people in other places who are doing things differently. I’m not going to condemn rioters, but that’s not what I want to do. That’s not where I’m at, because I want to influence events in my area and the direction we think we should go. The conditions are different from place to place.”

In this instance, the closeness between Hamm and Mayor Ras Baraka – and a shared history of communicating on the ground level about those ground-level crisis events often, usually in fact, far below the headlines, made this occasion pro forma for the two leaders.

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