- THE MAYOR DOUG PALMER
- United States of America
TRENTON - Last night's City Council meeting lurched between surreal and surly when a self-proclaimed Bloods gang member offered his organization's help in ending a budget crunch that could potentially close four library branches.
The gangster's offer received applause.
Smelling of liquor - but apparently earnest in his delivery - a tattooed man calling himself "Eugene" and identifying himself as a high-ranking officer in the city's 9-Trey Bloods set said he could help.
"If it's money you need I can make some phone calls, maybe get some rappers here and have a concert," Eugene said.
Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer delivered a stinging rebuttal last night by phone after community activist Paul Harris laid into City Council President Paul Pintella for allowing Eugene a free pass on his address.
"If gang members want to help this city they can start with a renouncement of their gang affiliation, get legitimate jobs and stop the violence that terrorizes our communities, which forces our young kids to use libraries as safe havens," Palmer told The Trentonian. "Our streets would be safe havens if the gang members stopped their nonsense.
"Tell the gang members thanks but no thanks regarding helping Trenton. If (Eugene) wants to help then he should get his brothers to stop selling drugs, stop the killing. Maybe they can stop the violence so that people won't have to give a second thought about being shot while sitting on their front porch or running in the playground."
Eugene described his 9-Trey set as a "non-violent group that does a lot for the community that people never hear about.
"The only thing they ever hear are bad things that the media writes about us. Forget the perception that others have about me. You can't judge a book by its cover. Every gangbanger ain't always violent."
Eugene followed 9-year-old Al Haqq at the City Council microphone after the young boy voiced his plea for saving branches at Briggs, East Trenton, Cadwalader and Skelton.
Haqq predicted that a closure of libraries will lead many city youth toward gangs and violence. Eugene said he didn't want young kids like Haqq to turn to violence, drugs or death.
His oratory completed, Eugene then received supportive applause, much to the dismay of Pintella.
"That surprised me a little, but it's understandable because some of the people were with him," Pintella said.
Pintella also recalled how in the past year the city's downtown main branch had served as a meeting place for gang members. "But if they want to help, then first they need to get out of the gangs. I don't know that we are going to deal with reputed drug dealers and thugs," he said.
But that's what a community activist alleged with his analyzation of Eugene's delivery.
"Everything (Eugene) said was disrespectful to City Council. As soon as he stood up there and proclaimed himself as a top gang member it should have been over. That's like a known terrorist going before the United Nations," Harris said.
"No matter what he said, there is a perception that exists about his gang. They are about guns, drugs and violence - and that's it as far as I'm concerned. There is nothing positive about that."
Harris did side with Pintella after the meeting ended, both saying that Eugene had a right to speak his opinions.
"This is still America," Pintella said. "You may not like what a person says, but I will always defend his right to say what he thinks."
SAVE OUR LIBRARIES.
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