An anti-violence rally in Newark, New Jersey, devolved into a physical skirmish after activists disagreed on how to curb bloodshed in the city.
Activists originally planned the Dec. 30 event on the steps of city hall to urge Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to "unleash his quality of life plan in addressing ongoing violence" in the crime-plagued northern New Jersey city, according to a press release issued before the rally.
The community activists were talking to reporters who were covering the event when a small group of the mayor's supporters, including activists Donna Jackson and Tyrone "Street Counsel" Barnes, started heckling from the base of the steps.
When Jackson and Abdul Muhammad, a longtime activist, got into each other's faces, Barnes allegedly tackled Muhammad and put his hands around Muhammad's neck, according to NJ.com.
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Supporters from both sides joined the fray, and the resulting chaos lasted a few minutes. No one was seriously injured.
"Today we stood on the steps of City Hall to show that black lives matter in Newark, and it turned out ugly," said Minister Thomas Ellis, leader of the city's "Enough Is Enough" anti-violence coalition.
City leaders and community activists have been floating plans to stop bloodshed on Newark's streets for years, but the issue gained new urgency in 2015, when there were 104 reported homicides. That was 11 more murders than the city saw in 2014, according to NJ.com, and included a summer rash of killings that reignited worries about safety in Newark.
In August, six people were killed in six days, prompting the Newark Police Department to reassign more than 100 desk officers to patrol duty.
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The upward trend in violence also included more gun battles among gang members in Newark: In an August report, NJ.com tallied 249 reports of people injured in shootouts.
About 75 percent of homicides in the city are the result of turf wars between drug gangs, Newark Police Director Eugene Venable told WNYC earlier this year.
Salaam Ismial, one of the organizers of the Dec. 30 rally, told NJ.com he hoped the scuffle wouldn't distract from the problem activists were trying to highlight.
"For all intents and purposes, this hurt the possibility that Newark can have in addressing this problem once and for all," Ismail said. "Until there's some sense of a unified front among the leaders, there's never going to be an impact on the people at large."