Booker: 'anguished' by Baltimore, incidents show 'urgency' for justice reform

WASHINGTON – Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) said he was “anguished” by the images of riots in Baltimore yesterday, saying they are “not justified,” but that the conflict shows the need to continue pushing to fix the U.S. criminal justice system.

“Obviously we should not be tolerating levels of violence and lawlessness that are not constructive in any way,” said Booker, the former Newark mayor who has made criminal justice reform one of the top issues of his Senate tenure. “I’m just anguished over it, but to me it highlights some of the larger issues that we have unfinished issues in America. Clearly we have a legal system in this country that needs to become more of a justice system.”

He said he has been in touch to offer support to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who he called a longtime friend from when they were both city leaders.

Booker said the attention brought on the case of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died, along with the recent shooting of an unarmed black man by a South Carolina police officer, will add to the momentum for reforms. He dismissed the idea that the riots might cost advocates support in some quarters.

“Rioting, looting is a setback. So is shooting a man in the back in South Carolina,” Booker said. “Wrongs are pointing us to more of the urgency to correct what’s going on.”


You can follow Tamari on Twitter or email him at jtamari@phillynews.com.