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Jamal Washington barred from Gary City Council meetings

Sixth District Gary City Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks attended a council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 5, her first since she was allegedly attacked and held against her will in her home by longtime political ally Jamal Washington. The City Council voted to ban Washington, an ex-Lake County councilman, from future city council and committee meetings, given the domestic violence allegations against him. After the meeting, council attorney Rinzer Williams clarified Sparks-Wade has filed a restraining order against Washington, and that the council’s vote was merely a recognition of Sparks-Wade’s order.

Most of us look to our leaders to take strong stands on key issues — even if doing so strictly on principle.

The Gary Common Council took such a stand Tuesday night — in solidarity with battered women everywhere — and the entire Region should echo in applause.

Despite objections from their legal counsel, City Council members voted 6-2 to ban disgraced former Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington from their meetings pending the outcome of the latest in a line of domestic violence charges against Washington.

This time, it was personal.

Washington, a candidate for Gary City Council, faces five felony counts alleging he beat his girlfriend, city Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks Wade, and held her against her will for 16 hours last week.

Sparks-Wade had been a steadfast political ally of Washington through his two previous domestic violence convictions for battering his wife in 2015 and his female cousin in 2017.

This time, according to police reports, she was on the receiving end of Washington's violence.

She now is bravely taking a stand as a willing witness in Washington's prosecution.

As we stated in Wednesday's editorial, a series of plea deals and lax sentences meant Washington served only sparse jail time for his past offenses.

It was a clear example of a justice system that doesn't treat crimes against women with the appropriate gravity.

Then came Tuesday's vote by council members to ban a convicted abuser from their chambers, in solidarity with their colleague Sparks-Wade, pending an outcome in Washington's criminal case.

Gary Council President Ron Brewer made the motion.

Five other council members supported it, even though city legal counsel was concerned it could spark litigation.

It's a legal fight worth making if Washington chooses to formally object to the move.

Sometimes, standing on principle must outweigh the threat of legal action. Brewer and council members Rebecca L. Wyatt, Mary Brown, Carolyn Rogers and Michael Brown joined Sparks-Wade herself in voting for the ban.

In doing so, the council majority offered a strong measure of gravity befitting cases of violence and other crimes against women.

Our society needs so much more of this.

Giving credit where it's due, the Gary Common Council got this one right.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.