NEWARK – They mobilized, ward by ward, like army rifle companies without rifles, converging on Market and Broad in the name of peace, with Mayor Ras Baraka in a black muscle t-shirt with the words “We are Newark” printed on it leading the charge from down south.
“South Ward! South Ward! South Ward!” sounded the shouts as Baraka led a band of core constituents down Broad to converge with those 100s of accompanying forces arrayed from the other four wards as part of today’s “Occupy the City” march and rally organized by the Baraka Administration against violence.
At least 53 people lost their lives to violence this year in the City of Newark, roughly on par with last year’s homicides, with fewer citywide resources after deep cuts to the police department, conditions the mayor outlined in a press conference last month.
Baraka’s brother and chief of staff Amiri “Middy” Baraka stood onstage with a microphone, welcoming those purple-shirted residents of each ward as they tramped into view. “We’ve got to get rid of cynicism and we’ve got to start supporting this administration, and elected officials, police, firefighters, activists, unions, black, brown, white – it’s about unity,” said the chief-of-staff.
Mayor Baraka anchor legged the event. “Residents, if you don’t like what’s happening on your block then tell on them,” he said. “No more silence. Stop the violence.”
Organizing simultaneously with the other wards, the South Ward contingent began the march at Brunswick and Astor, when Baraka showed up in a group that included South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James, Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-29), and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-28). Two weeks ago, the People’s Organization for Progress (POP) staged a march against police brutality. Baraka attended the tail end of that rally, but he also wanted to press the message that members of the community must do a better job of looking out for one another, and assume a more vigorous role in quashing Newark violence. He outlined his vision for the march this past Thursday.
“Come join us,” the mayor shouted on the long walk through the streets of the South Ward, waving to constituents on street corners, porches, in front of bodegas and auto shops.
James, the son of former Mayor Sharpe James, told the crowd, “You took City Hall, let’s take the streets.”
Standing at the intersection of Broad and Market, when those who had already arrived
at the end point of the march watched the other wards’ residents arrive, shouts of support rose at the urging of Middy Baraka.
James’ counterpart in the north, Councilman Anibal Ramos, who bowed out of the mayor’s contest last year to back Shavar Jeffries against Baraka, attended the rally with a contingent of his ward supporters. “The North Ward is represented here today,” said Ramos, who arrived alongside At-Large Councilmen Luis Quintana and Carlos Gonzalez. “We live in one city and we are against violence in this City of Newark. We want our city back.”
Gonzalez grabbed the microphone. “This is something the mayor organized and we are 100% with the mayor,” the councilman said. “Let’s fight together.”
Celebrities Common and John Amos joined the resident Newarkers in support.
The former star of the television show Good Times, Amos was born in Newark. “They told me ‘Amos, you’re going to end up in Rahway.’ And I did – making a moving with Sly Stallone. I’m as much Newark as Ras Baraka, and I support Ras Baraka, our mayor. Be responsible for your children.
“Let’s stop the violence,” Amos yelled. “Let’s stop the violence. Let’s stop the violence!” Visibly moved by the reception he received in the town of his birth, the veteran actor was engulfed in applause.
More pictures from today’s “Occupy the City” Rally follow…