Shouts of “sell-out” and “Uncle Tom” rained down on black City Council members Wednesday from supporters of Brooklyn Democrat Charles Barron, who didn’t receive a single vote from a colleague in his bid to unseat Speaker Christine Quinn.
In the first meeting of the new council, about a dozen members of the public heckled from the second floor balcony and cheered on Barron, whose candidacy went down 48-1.
Majority Leader Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) smacked his gavel several times to try to quiet the crowd, who also broke into a chant of “Charles Barron for speaker!”
“It’s not about Christine Quinn, it’s not really about Charles Barron, it’s about us having our turn,” Barron, who is black, said before announcing he would run for speaker.
After the vote, his supporters were escorted out of the chamber by police.
Afterwards, Barron said they came on their own and defended their behavior. “People are allowed their First Amendment rights,” he said.
Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), who was sitting next to Barron and called him a friend, said voting for Quinn was “a very difficult choice” but was the best decision for his constituents.
Those in the balcony, he said, “throw around words like ‘Uncle Tom’ and ‘sell-out’ very frivolously.”
As Barron noted, the council for the first time has a majority of minority members. Quinn, who was elected speaker in 2006, is the first openly gay member to serve in that post.
After the vote, Quinn said the council had “pioneered a new politics of inclusion.”
“I’m proud to say we’ve never had a city council that so fully reflects the diversity of our great city,” she said.