Diallo, a 22-year-old worker from Guinea, was returning home to his apartment when four New York City cops gunned him down. He was unarmed. His killing sparked massive street protests, including daily actions at police headquarters where some 1,200 people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience over the course of several months.
Diallo's parents, Democratic politician Al Sharpton, and others spoke at the event. "This should not happen to anyone anywhere in New York, anywhere in this country, or anywhere in the world," said Kadiatou Diallo, the victim's mother, as she thanked protesters for their support.
The four cops are now on trial upstate in Albany, after the New York Supreme Court agreed with defense attorney motions that any jury selected in the Bronx is biased against the police.
A 24-year-old electrician at the event said the state "moved that trial up there because we got two convictions around the [Abner] Louima case, and [New York Mayor] Giuliani doesn't want another." Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was brutally sodomized by Brooklyn police officers in August of 1997. Officer Justin Volpe was given a 30-year sentence for that attack and Officer Charles Schwarz was convicted of holding down Louima during the assault.
As the vigil ended, participants placed candles and flowers outside and inside the tiny vestibule where Diallo was killed. Bullet holes are still visible along with hand-written messages in the entrance way at 1157 Wheeler Avenue where he lived.
Mamadou Diallo, Amadou's cousin, is the president of the youth group of the West Guinean Association. "This is the first time the association has been involved in a political struggle," Diallo said.
A jury of eight whites and four Blacks has been selected to hear the trial in which police officers Richard Murphy, Kenneth Boss, Edward McMellon, and Sean Carroll are charged with second degree murder. Their lawyers argue they fired in self-defense and charge Diallo with suspicious hand movements and evasive behavior that led the four cops to believe he had a gun.
Neighbor Debbie Rivera testified she heard a short burst of gunfire, a pause, then a long burst of shooting by the police. Six other witnesses testified that the street, the vestibule, and the hallway behind Diallo were well lit, disproving defense lawyers' contention that it was dark and the wallet in Diallo's hand was mistaken for a gun.
The big-business news media is trying to prepare the ground for acquittal or at least a lesser sentence, portraying the killing of Diallo as a tragedy that comes with the need for tough policing measures that bring down crime.
The four cops responsible are portrayed as good policemen who were emotionally devastated by the incident. On February 4 cops held a support rally for the four inside the Bronx 43rd Precinct station house.
Glova Scott is a member of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees. Mary Ann Schmidt is a member of the International Association of Machinists.
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