Newark mourns its destroyed youth
by Manny Fernandez, Newark, New Jersey
August 13, 2007
FROM early morning to late afternoon, Newark was a city of mourning as people attended funerals for three friends killed in a schoolyard a week before.
The eulogies came in waves of emotion from relatives, officials and strangers, filling three Baptist churches and spilling onto the street.
The funerals the first at 9am, the second at 11am, the third at noon made for a kind of rolling stage for the city's grief, not only for the victims but for all young men and women killed in street violence here.
"Get this evil out of my city," Mayor Cory Booker told nearly 1000 mourners at the funeral for the youngest of the three victims, Terrance Aeriel, 18.
About 11.30pm nearly 10 days ago, the three victims Dashon Harvey, 20, Iofemi Hightower, 20, and Mr Aeriel were hanging out at the Mount Vernon School.
They were confronted by several attackers, and the three were lined up against a low wall behind the school, forced to kneel and shot in the head.
The authorities say robbery appears to be the motive. Police arrested two 15-year-olds and a 28-year-old illegal immigrant from Peru, Jose Carranza, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder and weapons possession charges.
Police have a warrant out for one suspect, and citizens and law enforcement officials have organised a $150,000 reward for information leading to arrests in the case.
Carranza is charged in a separate case with aggravated assault and sexual abuse of a child. At the time of the killings, Carranza had been free on bail for the earlier charges against him. Residents have expressed outrage over why he was allowed to walk the streets again.
Through the day, a spirit of urgency to stop the violence that has held Newark hostage for years swept the community, as people paid tribute to the three shooting victims.
Protesters last week marched on City Hall and called for Mayor Booker, 37, to step down. He had made promises to curb violence in the city during his campaign more than a year ago. But despite his moves to put more police on the streets and launching an anonymous tip-off line, crime remains high.
On Saturday, Mr Booker's impassioned speeches at all three funerals drew applause. He spoke of Mr Aeriel, who had preached sermons at a local church. "He inspired me to go back to the drawing board and see what I must do to continue his work," Mr Booker yelled over the cheers.