Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s anger was evident yesterday as he assailed the people of his city for not coming forward to report the perpetrators in a brutal video that went viral showing three men savagely whipping another man with a belt after forcing him to strip naked.
The video, filmed in August, was viewed more than 40,000 times on YouTube — a fact that the mayor found extremely disturbing. It was later taken down. The three men were tracked down by police and arrested, charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault.
Pounding his fist on the lectern, Booker called the attack and the silence of witnesses “a blow to the conscience of our community.”
“In the face of evil, those who remain quiet are participants in that evil,” said Booker, who is running for the U.S. Senate next year. “We’re better than this.”
In a city that is predominantly African-American, the video is also disturbing because it recalls savage whipping scenes from American slavery. In the video, after the victim takes off his clothes and admits he owes $20 — apparently it was actually his father who owed the $20, which the men took from the victim — they forced him to say repeatedly, “(It’s a) dog eat dog world.” One man then whips the victim, using a belt borrowed from another man, and laughter from those watching the beating can be heard in the background.
According to police, Ahmad Holt, 22, did the whipping. He had already been incarcerated in Trenton on an unrelated charge. Raheem Clark, 31, is accused of giving Holt his belt and was arrested in Newark on Tuesday. The cameraman, who can be seen squirting water on the victim, was Jamaar Gray, 23, who turned himself in on Tuesday.
“Others saw this brutality and said nothing; this vicious crime was not reported,” Booker said, then paraphrased the quotation from British orator Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Newark’s police director, Samuel DeMaio, said that the police were able to track down the assailants after viewing the video because they could see it took place in an alley off Irvine Turner Boulevard. They canvassed the neighborhood, finding several people who knew about the attack, and used that information to find the victim, who the police said was 21 and had moved away out of concern for his safety. According to DeMaio, the victim had not reported the assault because he feared his assailants.
Carolyn Murray, acting prosecutor for Essex County, said the men could each face 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of armed robbery, and 5 to 10 years if convicted of aggravated assault.
Of more than a dozen people interviewed on Wednesday afternoon by The New York Times near the crime scene, there was a casualness about their reactions to the video. A young man who said he had seen the assault described it as “not a big deal,” adding, “The mayor just made it a problem because it made him look bad.”
“There is a brutal culture in this community,” Booker said. “It’s not the city’s culture, but it’s a subculture of violence and crime. And the reality is it’s something I think we could fight a lot better if more people who were not involved found a way to speak up, engage and do something.”