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Newark

Community Demands Justice, not Racist Hysteria, in Vailsburg Murders

by Arthur Henson |
August 25, 2007

Newark, NJ - The Aug. 4 killings of three college students in the Vailsburg section of Newark, New Jersey has become national news. Terrance Aeriel, 18, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Iofemi Hightower, 20, were forced to kneel and were shot in the head. A fourth victim, Natasha Hightower, 19, was also shot but survives.

The crime is being used to salvage the political fortunes of Newark Mayor Cory Booker. He had been in deep trouble over a default in payment for summer jobs to hundreds of teenagers. He had also ridiculed a recently deceased African-American community activist before a largely white audience in a nearby suburban town. His comments ended up on YouTube and caused even more furor. Suddenly, however, Booker is a hero for ‘bringing the community together’ in the wake of this crime.

One of the accused, Jose Carranza, is an undocumented immigrant. He has not been convicted of anything, but a tide of hysteria is being whipped up to attack undocumented immigrants and constitutional rights.

For example, County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said on Aug. 28, “I'm on the verge of telling my guys to suspend civil liberties and start frisking everybody.” Calls for new legislation that would protect citizens against ‘lawless’ immigrants are being heard from people like Newt Gingrich.

Mayor Booker was quoted on CNN on Aug. 11 as saying, “This guy’s a murderer,” although Carranza has not been tried or convicted. Donald Cresitello, the mayor of Morristown, New Jersey, twelve miles west of Newark, wants his municipal police deputized to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to arrest and turn over undocumented people. He claims the arrest of Carranza supports his racist and inflammatory stand.

Darrell Graham, who chairs the Anti-Violence Committee of the Newark-based People’s Organization for Progress, says of Mayor Booker, “The community’s voice is being shut out of this. They are trying to make the individual chosen to represent this community look like Giuliani.” He also charges that there is a move to set African-American people against Latinos. “They want to present it,” says Graham, who is African-American, “as a case of ‘look what they did to us.’”

“There is more to this than meets the eye,” Graham continued. “I don't put nothing past this government. Look at all the lies about Iraq. This system creates violence. It embraces it and profits from it, locally, regionally and internationally.”

The case cries out for justice, not hysteria and racist attacks on the people. A community rally to demand justice on the people’s terms is being organized for Aug. 29 by the Newark chapter of the New Black Panther Party. Many other community voices are being raised to demand justice and defend the people. Events will surely show that the Newark community itself is stronger than the reactionary tide.

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