Early morning Sunday, August 8, four cops fired a fusillade of 46 bullets outside a block party killing Luis Soto, critically wounding Angel Alvarez, and wounding three others. Two cops were also hit by police gunfire. City officials, capitalist politicians, and the police have been working overtime since the shootings to defuse outrage over the killing and wounding of people in Harlem.
Organizers of the Harlem meeting sought to divert attention of the crowd away from centering on the shooting by the cops, placing more of the blame on general violence. But many at the meeting were incensed by the officers brutality.
What happened shouldnt happen like that. It is too much, Iris, a bartender and Harlem resident, told the Militant. If this happened to Diallo and Bell, why does it keep happening? She was referring to the shootings of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, both of whom were killed in the city in similar fashion by New York police officers.
The cops seem to have their minds made up when they come into this area, Janna Rojas, another Harlem resident, told the Militant.
Eyewitnesses to the shootings say Alvarez, 23, and Soto, 21, were involved in a scuffle at a block party on 143rd Street near Lenox Avenue. Accounts by police and witnesses of what followed vary. Some neighborhood residents say the police converged on the two men and fired without warning.
The police story, which has changed since the shootings first happened, claims Alvarez wrestled a gun away from Soto and then began firing at police. Four of the 50 bullets fired that morning reportedly came from that gun. At the end of the incident Soto, who was shot five times, lay dead. He was killed by a police bullet, according to ballistics test results reported in the media. Alvarez was left in critical condition, shot 21 times.
Rene Leon, a cousin of Luis Soto, told this reporter after the Harlem meeting: Every day of our lives we get harassed by the cops.
The cops and media immediately began a campaign impugning the character of Soto and Alvarez, with reports of their criminal records, and by publicizing the contents of searches of their homes to imply further criminal activity.
The Socialist Workers campaign of Róger Calero, candidate for U.S. Congress in District 15, which includes Harlem, issued a statement immediately after the shootings condemning the police actions and calling for the arrest, prosecution, and punishment of the cops involved.
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