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Rally alleges ulterior motives in search of Atlantic City mayor's home

Mayor Marty Small, in green, prays with religious leaders after the rally.

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photo  A rally was held in support of Mayor Marty Small, Superintendent LaQuetta Small and Atlantic City High School Principal Constance Days-Chapman in front of the Civil Rights Garden.

Family matters.

Those two words came up often at a rally in support of Atlantic City's mayor, schools superintendent and the high school's principal.

The Rev. Steffie Bartley, who heads the Northeast sector of Al Sharpton's National Action Network, organized the event in front of the city's Civil Rights Garden to question why 20 armed law enforcement officers raided the home of Mayor Marty Small and Superintendent LaQuetta Small on March 28.

"We're here today because we're baffled at the fact that we moved from a family matter to seem like a criminal matter," Bartley said.

The family matter centers around the Smalls' 16-year-old daughter, and how she may have been disciplined in her parents' home.

The Atlantic City High School student apparently went to her principal to report abuse by her parents. Constance Days-Chapman — known to the Small children as "Aunt Mandy" — allegedly ignored the allegations and instead went to the student's parents, according to criminal charges filed against her last month.

As a "mandatory reporter," Days-Chapman committed official misconduct and obstructed justice, the charges allege.

While the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office has not identified the student, Small confirmed the connection during a March 28 press conference Small held in City Hall with his attorney.

“We support you, Mandy,” Small said. “You did absolutely nothing wrong.”

A warranted search of the Smalls' home and vehicles came hours after the charges against the principal were announced. Neither of the Smalls have been charged at this time.

NAACP Atlantic City Chapter President Kaleem Shabazz questioned whether the raid of the Smalls' home was how others would have been treated.

"Our experience is that (the Smalls) are decent, and they are honorable, and they are law-abiding," said Shabazz, who also serves as vice president of City Council. 

Bishop Robert Fulton Hargrove, president of the local Fellowship of Churches, talked of idioms, saying he believed the Prosecutor's Office-led raid was "a picture is worth a thousand words."

"What I saw was propaganda," he said. "What I saw was psychological warfare. ... I saw racial insensitivity."

The mayor and superintendent showed up several minutes into the speech, but did not speak.

"My God vs. My Enemies," read the mayor's green sweatshirt.

The Smalls are neither angels nor devils, Imam Amin Muhammad said. "They are human beings."

He came in support of them as his family, he stressed, offering only the "greatness of this country" in that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

"I remember our honorable mayor when I was on the other side of the justice system, and (Small) didn't turn his back on me," Muhammad said. "When my brother was on the other side of the justice system, (Small) didn't turn his back on us.

"If he needs me as his brother, I'm going to be there," Muhammad concluded.

About five dozen people filled the street in support of the mayor.

"Where's the rally for the children?" asked one resident who showed up after the rally ended, echoing what some said in comments on BreakingAC's livestream of the event.

photo Dr. LaQuetta Small, right, talked to supporters after the rally.

The mayor has acknowledge that the Division of Child Protection and Permanency opened up a case with his family,and that — despite both he and his wife being highly educated — they took no classes on how to be a parent or "how to deal with the struggles of raising teenagers."

The teen's boyfriend has spoken out against the mayor and superintendent on social media.

"It started with a situation that was done behind closed doors with a family and it should have been left there," said Pastor Amir Khan, of Camden.

"What if you can turn around and throw one stone and take down three strong, black leaders in the city of Atlantic City," he said.

He then told the story of how his one daughter disrespected her mother.

"When I got home, you best believe I took off my belt," Khan told those gathered. "I put my belt on that girl."

She wound up calling police, who questioned the family with an officer coming to the conclusion that he would have done the same thing, Khan said.

That is not always how that goes, two parents who had separate DCPP cases told BreakingAC, indicating that the Smalls have been treated much better than some.

One black civic leader, who asked not to be named, said his children were taken away due to what paperwork shows were later deemed false allegations. The attempt to prosecute him was led by former Prosecutor Damon Tyner, who is also black.

A resident said she was blocked on Facebook after questioning the mayor.

She also has been through a DCPP case after a teen she was caring for wound up in trouble.

The mother, who asked not to be named, said she took a class, was drug tested and not allowed to work with children despite her credentials all because "I had a child acting out and because he was chastised."

"I want to know who's standing behind the children being abused, crying asking for help," she told BreakingAC. 

While the National Action Network's Bartley hosted the rally, another member of the Al Sharpton-founded group stood silently across the street.

Steve Young, who heads NAN's Atlantic City chapter, has a contentious history with the Smalls. 

"This is my statement," he said after the rally, as he handed a reporter a printout of President Joe Biden's proclamation making this April National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

"Interesting timing," Young said.


Lynda Cohen

Lynda Cohen founded BreakingAC after working as a local newspaper reporter for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

Sunday, May 19, 2024
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