Man grabbed hijab from woman's head in 'hate crime,' Newark mayor says

By Marisa Iati | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 20, 2016

Mayor Ras Baraka welcomes residents to the 31st annual christmas tree lighting ceremony in Newark on December 5, 2016.

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NEWARK -- The mayor of New Jersey's largest city on Tuesday called for the state to fire an employee who allegedly grabbed a hijab off a woman's head and threw it on the ground.

A white, male state employee ridiculed a Black, Muslim female Newark employee and snatched her hijab Dec. 5 in the Newark One-Stop Career Center, Mayor Ras Baraka said in a press release.

"This was an act of hate against the Islamic faith, as well as an attack on her as a woman," he said.

Newark police arrested the man and banned him from the One-Stop Center, but Baraka said the Essex County Prosecutor's Office should have charged him with a hate crime. He also called on U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman to investigate the incident and file a hate crime charge. 

In response, Essex County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Kathy Carter said based on the information her department received, the incident did not constitute a crime under state law.

The One-Stop Center is managed by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which owns the building at 990 Broad St. Several state and city agencies comprise the One-Stop. 

The man who allegedly harassed the city employee works for the state Department of Labor's Employment Services section. 

Labor spokeswoman Amanda Pisano said in a statement that upon learning of the incident, the department suspended the employee without pay, cooperated with authorities and is pursuing termination in accordance with employee disciplinary procedures.

Newark police Capt. Derek Glenn said the suspect, a 67-year-old Brooklyn resident, faces harassment charges in connection with the incident.

"In the present climate of violence against Muslims across America and around the world, hate crimes must be recognized for what they are, and they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Baraka said in the press release. "The climate of anti-Muslim violence that has exploded in recent weeks is leaving tragedy, pain and division in its wake."

New Jersey has seen other anti-Muslim incidents in recent months, including graffiti sprayed on a school used for Muslim prayers and "ISIS sympathizer" written on a campaign sign for a Muslim school board candidate

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