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Rousing Support for Embattled Rep. Rangel

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

While Congressman Charles Rangel awaits a decision from members of the U.S. House of Representatives, a strong contingent of supporters gathered in front of Mother Zion church in Harlem, each taking a turn to praise him and to admonish his colleagues in Congress.

“We are urging the House to vote no,” charged Assemblyman Keith Wright, who moderated the lineup of speakers. A “no” vote would mean a mere reprimand sentence for the embattled congressman who was convicted of violating 11 House ethical rules and regulations.

There is a general consensus that believes he will be censured, but to what degree is of grave concern to his constituents. “He did nothing illegal,” said Councilmember Inez Dickens, “maybe a little sloppy, but nothing illegal. We are united here and we believe this is a civil rights issue and we are asking the House exercise due diligence in their judgment.”

Former Mayor David Dinkins hoped a recommendation from his colleagues would be “sanctions less than censure.” He believed there still may be time to turn the situation around for a “representative who has over his long career been extremely helpful to people. He has been punished enough.”

“What we need now is for the other 434 members of the House to do the right thing,” said the Rev. Gregory Robeson Smith, the pastor of Mother Zion church. He recalled Rangel’s unwavering fight against apartheid in South Africa and his being arrested in the stance against police brutality. “In this case, justice has already been served,” he said.

City Comptroller John Liu said the people of the 15th Congressional District had already voiced their support on Nov. 2. “They made it loud and clear that he was their choice by re-electing him,” he said. This fact was echoed by the Rev. Jacques De Graft, the Imams Conate and Pasha, Walter Edwards of the Harlem Arts Alliance, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat. “Thousands of constituents don’t want to be disenfranchised by a hasty action,” Espaillat said.

Assemblyman Wright insisted that Rangel’s reputation has not been soiled, “in fact, it has been enhanced.”

“I completely agree with all that’s been said,” Cheryl Pahaham, who was among the spectators at the press conference. “Like so many others in the district, I voted for him.”

Political consultant Simeon Banister said that ordinarily he refrains from speaking to the press, “but I feel a need to say something about this situation, though. Look at the cases of James Traficant and Charlie Wilson. These were clear instances of impropriety, but Congressman Rangel has committed no crime, no charges of corruption. The worst he should get is a reprimand,” Banister concluded.

As Rev. De Graft delivered closing remarks, the crowd began singing “We Shall Overcome.”

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