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Newton residents demand an apology from aldermen

Posted by Caitlin Castello  January 20, 2010 11:27 AM

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Some Newton residents are demanding a public apology from the two aldermen who sponsored a failed effort to bring a Guantanamo Bay detainee to the city, saying they will organize a recall if they don’t get it.

The Board of Aldermen unanimously voted down the resolution Tuesday night following fierce public opposition, but some of the more than 60 people who filled the aldermen’s chambers said the issue isn’t over.

‘‘We want [aldermen] Steve Linsky and Ted Hess-Mahan to apologize, and to go for sensitivity training or resign,’’ Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, said in an e-mail to the Globe afterwards. ‘‘If they do not apologize, we will consider forming a movement to recall them.

Jacobs helped to organize residents who opposed the resolution to allow Abdul Aziz Naji, a 34-year-old Algerian man to relocate to Newton. Many residents attended Tuesday night’s meeting with signs in protest of the measure.

‘‘I would be happy to sit down and speak with them and hear what their grievances are,’’ Hess-Mahan said in an interview today.

"“I'm happy to have a discussion with them," said Linsky.

There is no procedure in the city charter for a recall or impeachment of an alderman, said David Olson, clerk of the Board.

“Did they think for one minute that you shouldn’t bring in a jihadi to Newton?” said Jacobs, whose nonprofit group’s mission is to keep America ‘‘hate free,’’ according to its website. “Do they know nothing about Gitmo recidivism? The Dept of Defense reports that 20 percent of Gitmo prisoners who are released return to terrorism. Want that in Newton?”

Individual aldermen and the city clerks office have been flooded with emails from across Newton,  said Alderman Charles Shapiro.
 
Shapiro organized a meeting last Friday to give residents a forum to express their opinions. About 30 residents attended. He was opposed to the measure and voted it down yesterday.
 
“Residents are free to express themselves in whatever way they wish. I feel comfortable this was an acceptable solution to a situation that should have never come up to begin with,” said Shapiro in an interview today.  “It’s important to move forward and focus on the Board’s business.”

The residents said they also want to educate the aldermen on extreme Islamic terrorism, saying it has become a local issue with the arrest last fall of a Sudbury man on terrorism charges.

“I think the committee who sponsored it owes us an apology,” Newton resident Margot Einstein said Tuesday night. “They need to know about Islamic jihad in New England.”

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