Police restrained Newark residents with pepper spray after they reacted to Mayor Cory Booker’s legal maneuver to fill an empty City Council seat on Wednesday, according to the Newark Star-Ledger
Booker cast the deciding vote before a packed house at Newark City Hall to appoint Shanique Davis Speight, a political ally, over John Sharpe James, the son of former mayor Sharpe James and preferred candidate of the crowd.
When Booker stepped out to participate in the meeting, which was boycotted by at least one member of the council, the crowded room erupted, leading police to ultimately use pepper spray as a way to calm them down.
Councilman Anibel Ramos, who supported the nomination of Speight, did not recognize Councilman Ras Baraka to speak — and went ahead with the nomination. This led to Baraka and two other members of the Council walking out.
Under state law, without a quorum, the mayor is permitted to vote with the council to break ties. In this case, he cast the deciding vote to place Speight in the seat formerly held by Donald Payne. Payne left the council because he was elected to Congress on Nov. 6.
"In the absence of a quorum, I have an obligation to sit in," Booker said.
"Of all the issues that have been a lot more pressing ... he comes down there and makes sure that he votes on an empty seat because it’s a political move for him," Baraka said, adding about police that “some of the officers of course were doing their job and made sure that we were OK but the officer that sprayed the mace was totally irresponsible.”
The move was orchestrated by Booker’s chief of staff, Modia Butler, to keep James, a political opponent of Booker, off the council.
"We did our research. We abided by the rules and guidelines,” Butler said. “We didn’t run afoul of anything.”
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