- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf Soundview Rallies For Sean Bell | Bronx News Networkbronx

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Soundview Rallies For Sean Bell

On Saturday, Bronx residents continued to demonstrate their anger over the acquittal of the three police officers who killed Sean Bell.

About 45 people—including teenagers, seniors, and those in between— marched through Soundview. The roughly 30-minute procession began in front of 1157 Wheeler Avenue – the building where Liberian immigrant Amadou Diallo was killed in 1999 by four NYPD officers— and concluded at the 43rd Precinct. A brief rally was held at the 43 after the march. Protestors observed a moment of silence for Diallo before beginning their trek down Wheeler Avenue.

The march was called, and led, by Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr.

“It seems to us that the only difference nine years later is that there were nine more bullets fired, ” Diaz told the crowd outside the 43rd Precinct, comparing the 41 shots fired at Diallo to the 50 bullets pumped at Bell.

As was the case with Wednesday’s rally in Highbridge, a major theme expressed at Saturday’s demonstration was that—given the history of fatal shootings, abuse, and harassment by law enforcement against persons of color—what happened to Sean Bell could easily have happened to any Black or Latino male. Demonstrators chanted “I am Sean Bell,” in addition to “I am [Anthony] Baez,” “ I am [Abner] Louema,” and “I am Amadou [Diallo],” referring to other victims of high-profile instances of police shootings and brutality. Marchers also sang the Civil Rights Movement anthem “We Shall Overcome,” and counted from 1 to 50 to represent the number of shots fired at Bell and his friends.

“It doesn’t have to be Amadou. It doesn’t have to be Sean Bell,” said 25-year-old Highbridge resident Richard Baldwin. “It could be your kids next.”

Baldwin added that Bell’s killing had hit him very personally. “A part of me dies,” Baldwin said, “every time someone is taken from this earth for the wrong reasons.”

Several Soundview residents watched the march from apartment windows, storefronts, and doorsteps. “They should rally,” said Josie Cruz, 49, as the march passed by. “50 bullets? That’s no good. Cops don’t have a right to shoot somebody 50 times.”

Some residents, like 27-year-old Anthony Morales, joined the demonstration on the spot. Morales said he encountered the march after exiting a bus, and was thrilled to see members of his community speaking out. “In this neighborhood, you really don’t hear protests like this,” Morales said. “So it’s a beautiful thing. It’s totally needed.”

Morales described police-community relations in Soundview as “horrible,” and said that he and other young residents of the neighborhood were frequently stopped-and-frisked by local police. He attributed the rarity of protest in Soundview to a fear on the part of residents to speak out against the police. When informed that the march was headed towards the 43rd Precinct, Morales enthusiastically exclaimed, “That’s what’s up!”

In front of the precinct, Diaz noted that Judge Arthur Cooperman had cited the “demeanor” of Bell’s friends Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman--as well as other prosecution witnesses--during the trial as a factor in his decision to acquit Officers Marc Cooper, Gescard F. Isnora, and Michael Oliver.

“To say that we can be shot 41 or 50 times because we have a certain flavor or swagger,” Diaz said, “is something we cannot tolerate.”

Diaz echoed the Rev. Al Sharpton’s calls for the creation of an independent prosecutor to prosecute cases involving police shootings.

As the rally in front of the 43rd Precinct wound to a close, this reporter was approached by Gloria Cruz, whose 10-year-old niece Naisha “Nana” Pearson was killed by stray bullets in Mott Haven in September of 2005. Cruz has since quit her retail job and devoted much of her life to efforts to rid the streets of illegal guns; in fact, she was in Washington D.C. lobbying Congress on this issue when she learned of the acquittal of Cooper, Isnora, and Oliver. She said she was “dumbfounded” and “upset” when she heard the verdict.

“I feel hurt,” Cruz said. “I know what it’s like to lose a loved one. Even though it was a legal gun [the weapons that killed Bell] , it was gun violence. We need to have the police department stop profiling us.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton has called for citywide acts of civil disobedience this Wednesday May 7, in protest of the acquittal of the three officers.

Sharpton announced that protestors will gather Wednesday afternoon at six locations throughout the city for a “pray-in” that will involve blocking traffic. According to NY1, The spots Sharpton announced are: Third Avenue at 125th Street; Park Avenue at 34th Street; Third Avenue at 60th Street; Varick and Houston Streets; One Police Plaza; and 415 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.
Check out NY1's Web site for more information about Wednesday's actions


Post a Comment

Bronx News Network reserves the right to remove comments that include personal attacks, name calling, foul language, commercial advertisements, spam, or any language that might be considered threatening, libelous or inciting hate.

User comments are reviewed by BxNN staff and may be included or excluded at our discretion.

If what you have to say is unrelated to this particular post, please visit our readers' forum.