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Friday, April 25, 2008

Outrage in Highbridge over Bell Verdict

Mirroring reactions across New York City , Highbridge is buzzing with outrage today, after the three NYPD officers who killed 23- year-old Sean Bell on his wedding night were acquitted of all charges. In November of 2006, officers fired 50 shots at Bell and his friends, none of whom were armed.

"Not guilty. I was so angry I was crying this morning," said Dennell, 31, as she waited for the BX 13 bus on Ogden Avenue. She and fellow bus riders Jada, 28, and Jasmine Parker, 21, predicted there would be massive outrage across the city as a result of the acquittals.

"I believe that 100 percent," Jada said. "There's too much police brutality against men and women period."

Omar Shabazz, who recently moved to Highbridge, said it was hypocritical for the United States to speak of spreading freedom and democracy in other countries -- or to condemn human rights violations of other countries, such as China-- since police who kill civilians in this country are very rarely punished.

"You talk about Tienamen Square. You do the same s**t here," Shabazz, 49, said with anger in his voice.

Shabazz added that his outrage did not merely stem from the fact that Bell- - like Amadou Diallo, Abner Louema, Malcolm Fergusson and a long list of others killed by the NYPD in the past several years-- was Black.

"If it had been a white guy and some Black cop shot him up, I'd be mad," Shabazz said.

Joseph Franklin joined in the conversation at W. 164th Street and Ogden Avenue. "It's an atrocity," Franklin said. "It's ridculous."

Inside Prince Barber Shop, many people said the acquittal was part of the larger picture of how Black people are viewed, and treated, by police and the American legal system in general. Kevin Edwards, 33, angrily said that the harassment he suffered at the hands of the police had become so commonplace that he did not feel comfortable or safe anywhere, even if he is simply trying to spend time outside enjoying the pleasant springtime weather. Edwards said he feels compelled to go straight from home to work, and back, or else risk being harassed or asked to provide his identification. He angrily showed me a $25 ticket police had recently given him for spitting on the sidewalk -- Edwards said that, at the time, he was vomiting because he was sick to his stomach.

"Do we have any rights anymore as Black people?" Edwards asked incredulously.

Edwards said he lived constantly with the fear that what happened to Bell could happen to him.

"I fear for my life," Edwards said. "I fear for my family. I fear one day getting shot by the police."

Please stay tuned to the West Bronx Blog for ongoing coverage of reactions to this morning's verdict.


  1. I really don't understand the legal system in this country...Michael Vick got over a year in prison for holding dog fights in Virginia, I agree with a penalty, but this may be a bit much. Now yesterday I hear Wesley Snipes has to serve three years for tax evasion, mean while three white cops are walking free with absolutely no consequence for a senseless killing?!

  2. I agree with you but I just wan to point out that they were not all white. Two were black and one was white.

  3. Similar to how things work with who gets convicted of killings (and often sentenced to death), it's the race of the victim that matters, not the race of the killer. White people often get the death penalty for killing white people. Black people don't usually get the death penalty for killing black people. This is similar in the sense that the race of the cops doesn't really matter to the judge. It's all about the race of the victim(s).

    Also, I wonder why the judge said the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses wasn't believable.


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