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Newark mayor says beating, witness silence are "evil"

By Edith Honan

(Reuters) - Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Wednesday condemned the failure of witnesses to alert police after seeing a young man forced to strip naked and whipped over a $20 debt - violence revealed only after a cell phone video went viral on the Internet.

The two and a half minute video of the beating, which took place in Newark in August, got 40,000 views on YouTube before it was removed from the website, according to the Star-Ledger newspaper, which posted it on its own site.

"We have strong reason to believe there were others who saw this crime happen" but said nothing, never calling 911 or alerting police, the mayor said at a news conference on Wednesday to announce arrests in the case.

"In the face of evil, those who remain quiet are participants in that evil," Booker said.

The video shows the victim complying with a man's orders to strip naked, admit he owes $20 and repeatedly say "(It's a) dog eat dog world." The man then whips the victim, using a belt borrowed from another man, the video shows. Laughter from those watching the beating is heard throughout the video.

"This is not who we are. We are Newark, New Jersey. We do not tolerate this level of cruelty, of callous disregard for the dignity of humanity," Booker said at the press conference.

Four people responsible for "this heinous, vicious, cruel crime" were recently apprehended and charged with robbery, assault and other crimes, Booker said.

Charged in the violence were Ahmad Holt, 22, who is believed to have carried out the whipping, Raheem Clark, 31, who is believed to have supplied the belt, Jamaar Grey, 23, accused as the cameraman, and Nicole Smith, 25, according to Booker's office.

Newark, eight miles from Manhattan and New Jersey's largest city, was once a thriving manufacturing center, but in recent decades it has battled an image of urban blight and high crime.

Since becoming mayor in 2006, Booker - a likely candidate for U.S. Senate next year - has made crime reduction a central priority. In March 2010, Newark experienced its first murder-free month since 1944.

But since then, amid cuts to the police force, crime has remained a significant problem in the city.

(Additional reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Bernard Orr)

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