BELLEVILLE, NJ - Protesters outside of a Belleville restaurant today weren’t feeling the love that U.S. Sen. Cory Booker so often speaks of on his presidential campaign trail.
“Booker’s a hypocrite! Booker’s a hypocrite!” about 40 protesters aligned with progressive groups chanted outside of Nanina’s, where a $2,800 per-person campaign fundraiser hosted by George Norcross III and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.
Take Back NJ, a coalition of progressive groups, last week asked Booker to cancel the fundraiser.
Norcross is under scrutiny for how companies linked to him got massive tax breaks from the state Economic Development Authority. Norcross has defended the use of funds from the EDA, arguing that they have helped lure new investment and jobs to a long-neglected city.
Booker and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez recently penned an op-ed touting Camden’s economic growth due to a partnership between state, county and local government and businesses. The piece singled out and praised MD Anderson Cancer at Cooper, where Norcross serves as board chairman.
DiVincenzo, meanwhile, faces criticism for continuing a contract with the federal government that allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to detain immigrants at a county jail in Newark.
A recent Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General on the facility found “unreported security incidents, food safety issues, and facility conditions that endanger detainee health." The county immediately addressed the issues and is spending $600,000 to improve conditions at the facility.
Whitney Strub, a Rutgers professor who was protesting outside Nanina's, said Booker’s campaign slogan of “leading with love” was a meaningless phrase considering who the senator has aligned himself with. Strub once penned an opinion piece that called for local politicians to be more vocal about ending Essex County’s contract with ICE.
“At some point the contradictions between talking like a progressive and acting like a reactionary have got to become visible to people,” Strub said. “It seems like this is a good moment to make that visible."
A Norcross spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for DiVincenzo referred TAPinto Newark to Booker's campaign.
"Anyone who knows Cory knows that he’s never hesitated to stand up and fight tough fights, speak out against injustice, and work to build a more fair and just country," said Booker's national press secretary, Sabrina Singh.
NJGlobe.com reported the fundraiser brought in $470,000 for Booker's presidential campaign.
On the presidential debate stage Wednesday, Booker promised to change the ICE policies that are currently in place. But NJ Working Families State Director Sue Altman said it was hypocritical of Booker to speak out against ICE policies considering his close ties to DiVincenzo.
“He stood up on this national stage and he spoke Spanish and spoke eloquently about how immigrants need justice and how human beings are human beings and this message of love,” Altman said. “It is a stark contrast to doing a fundraiser with Joe D, who runs an Essex County immigration jail that wasn't even good enough for ICE.”
Some teachers who are members of the New Jersey Education Association took issue with Norcross being closely aligned with Senate President Stephen Sweeney. The South Jersey Democratic lawmaker has been pushing to make cuts to public workers’ pensions.
Edward Henderson, a Paterson teacher, was fed up that Norcross companies are getting huge tax breaks, while he worries about his pension. He took issue with DiVincenzo for "double dipping" on his pension.
“I haven’t gotten a raise in five years,” Henderson said, adding that, “I have beef with all of them.”
There were at least seven police vehicles near Nanina’s during the protest. Officers did not allow TAPinto Newark to enter the restaurant.
Fundraiser attendees mostly entered in vehicles through a front entrance before walking into the venue and could not be seen from the street.
Other groups in attendance at the rally today included NJ 11th For Change and Our Revolution Essex County.