Baraka takes aim at critical blogger in YouTube video

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 11, 2016

NEWARK – Mayor Ras Baraka took to YouTube late last week to fire back at a critical blog post written by one of his most frequent detractors.

The 5-minute video posted Friday takes aim at Eric Dawson, a local politico who recently launched an opinion website, The Newark Report. A transcript of his latest post, which accused Baraka of using intimidation tactics to silence critics at an anti-violence rally turned brawl late last month, was distributed to a number of city email addresses on Thursday.

Baraka accused Dawson of hacking into the city's computer system, and called his online commentary "childish."

"This is a personal attack on my character, on me. I never sent anybody outside to attend a rally, to disrupt it, to struggle or fight with anyone," he said.

"These things are salacious kinds of articles that are designed to kind of aggravate, divide the people in this city. And I'm telling you it won't work."

A Newark native and the son of late political power broker Carl Sharif, Dawson is a marketing and design consultant who has worked closely with several campaigns for local office, including that of Shavar Jeffries, who Baraka defeated in a contentious 2014 campaign.

Though he now lives in Montclair, he has become a vocal critic of Baraka's administration, airing his dissent through a steady stream of posts on his Facebook page, where he regularly does battle with the administration's supporters.

He defended his position in an interview Monday afternoon, noting that Baraka had risen to prominence in the city as a vocal critic of various officials such as former mayors Sharpe James and Cory Booker and former superintendent of schools Cami Anderson.

"It's all hypocritical," he said. "Everything from the way that he conducted himself for the last 20 years - protesting, rallying, holding administrations accountable. Now he's being held accountable and he says that that's being divisive."

Dawson also dismissed the mayor's suggestion that his input bore less weight because he lives outside the city.

"I think that's absurd," he said. "The reality is when he went to the state and asked the state for money because there was a shortfall - is he gonna give me my tax dollars back, that went to pay for that?"

In his video, Baraka said he had great respect for Sharif and his family, in spite of often finding themselves on opposite side of Newark's political battlefield. However, he said he believed Dawson was behaving as though the mayoral race was alive and well.

"Its unfortunate that his son is still campaigning. He has never stopped campaigning since 2014," he said. "Our city needs to heal. It needs to move forward."

The mayor also took issue with a recent blog by Dawson accusing him of attempting to obscure his support for a moratorium on charter school expansion in Newark, saying his position on the issue " has always been the same."

"What Eric Dawson is doing is just dead wrong. He knows its wrong. If his father was alive, he wouldn't agree with what he's doing," he said.

"We have no room for campaigning. During campaign season, we campaign. But during governing season, we govern."

Dawson said he was taken aback by Baraka calling him out by name, but was thankful for the web traffic and attention that arrived after the video.

"I was shocked that he has the time to respond in that kind of way to a critique of his administration," he said. "At the end of the day, I don't think he meant to do good for the city, but I think he's done an amazing job."

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