|Newark Mayor Ras Baraka Signs Ordinance (Newark City Hall photo)|
By Bradford Mason
With the stroke of a pen Newark Mayor Ras Baraka signs an ordience creating a permanent Office of Violence Prevention at Newark Police Division’s 1st Precinct at the corner of 17th Avenue and Livingston Street.
The Newark City Council, which passed the bill on the first reading two weeks ago, voted on the ordinance on Wednesday, June 24. Baraka signed it at a press conference later that day.
The Office of Violence Prevention will manage all City anti-violence policy initiatives and programs and will be initially supported by 5 percent, or about $12 million, of the City police budget. It will eventually be housed in the 1st Precinct which was the 4th Precinct in 1967, and the site of the 1967 Rebellion.
“This is a historic moment in the City of Newark,” Baraka said. “I’d like to thank the City Council for their support of this historic ordinance. Other cities have created these types of offices as ‘policy,’ but we have made it a law. I’m not going to be Mayor forever, people change and policies change, but it’s much harder to change a law.”
The ordinance calls for the precinct to be closed by Dec. 31, 2021 and transitioned into a museum chronicling local activism in Newark and positive police changes, a trauma center for the health recovery and healing, workforce development, as well as the Office of Violence Prevention and the headquarters for the Anti-Violence Initiative.
The Mayor praised the City Council’s “forward thinking” it outlawing hate group activity, aimed at white supremacy groups which will now be labeled as “terrorists.”
“We must stand up forcefully against racism and have the courage to take on the legal challenges an ordinance such as this will attract,” Baraka said.
Newark Corporation Counsel Kenyatta Stewart, who drafted the ordinance, concurred.
“We will welcome challenges to the ordinance,” he said. “You can’t enjoy free speech, when you can’t breathe, and our first human right is to be able to live. Laws change as any society progresses. Slavery was outlawed. Women now have the right to vote. It’s time we reconsider hate speech as a right and instead look at the conditions it promulgates.”
The ordinance will do the following, under a new Office of Violence Prevention, whose coordinator will be appointed by Baraka:
- Manage policy initiatives and programs that advance the City’s anti-violence initiatives.
- Use data to inform City’s investments in violence prevention, assuring targeted approaches to violence prevention in City government and the community at large.
- Develop comprehensive community-based anti-violence initiatives within all City Departments.
- Establish a “see something, say something, do something” policy to demand that all City of Newark employees immediately intervene and report blatant civil rights violations by other employees, including police and fire. All acts of racism by City of Newark employees will result in automatic termination. Employees who fail to take action if they witness these acts will also be terminated.
- Establish a database (registry) of hate groups now existing within the United States and add to that list as new groups are identified. Hate groups are defined as those that vilify entire groups of people based on immutable characteristics such as race or ethnicity.
- The ordinance will also declare these hate groups, including groups characterized as White Supremacists, Nazi groups, the KKK, as terrorists, ban them from the City and make any actions by them illegal.
- The ordinance will also close the 1st Precinct of the Newark Police Division on 17th Avenue by December 31, 2021, and the building will be transitioned into a museum detailing the history of the Newark Police Department including the positive progress it has made with community relations, an office of workforce development, the headquarters for the Anti-Violence Initiative and a trauma center for health recovery and healing from acts of violence.