Booker Maneuver Sparks Near-Riot at City Hall

He casts rare vote on council to help political ally gain seat

By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 21, 2012 12:37 PM CST

(Newser) – A dramatic scene at Newark's city hall last night: During a meeting to appoint a new council member, Mayor Cory Booker pulled a behind-the-scenes move that caused outraged citizens to storm the dais, knocking over a podium and prompting police to use pepper spray, reports NJ.com. Two candidates were vying for the vacant seat: Shanique Davis Speight and John Sharpe James, a known opponent of Booker. The current council members were divided between the two, and when the acting president proceeded with the nomination of Speight without letting others speak, three of them marched off stage.

That's when Booker emerged to provide a quorum and cast his vote in favor of Speight. "We abided by the rules and guidelines," says the mayor's chief of staff. "We didn’t run afoul of anything." Residents at the meeting didn't agree, and led by SEIU Local 617 President Rahaman Muhammad, stormed the stage toward Speight and her young son. Speight was escorted out of the hall by police and later sworn in. "This was truly an out-of-body experience," said one councilman. "The mayor, who goes all around the country to talk about democracy ... literally in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows."

In this Oct. 29, 2012, file photo, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, right, speaks during a news conference at the Office of Emergency Management in Newark.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
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