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1,000 in New York protest killing by cops
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 70/No. 48December 18, 2006


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(front page, lead article)
1,000 in New York protest
killing by cops
City officials, police try to defuse outrage
Militant/Eddie Beck
Protesters at Foley Square in New York rally December 6 to demand 'Justice for Sean Bell,' the Black worker killed by the police November 26 in a hail of 50 bullets.

NEW YORK, December 6—One thousand people rallied in Foley Square here tonight to demand justice in response to the November 26 police shooting of three young African Americans that left one dead and two wounded.

City officials and other big-business politicians have sought to defuse the widespread anger at the cops with promises of a “fair investigation.” The police have tried to deflect blame with unsubstantiated claims that the victims of the shooting were linked to weapons and drug peddling.

Nearly 1,000 people turned out for the December 1 funeral of Sean Bell. The 23-year-old worker was killed in a barrage of 50 police bullets in the early morning hours of November 26. His friends Joseph Guzman, 31, and Trent Benefield, 23, received multiple gunshot wounds and were hospitalized. Five undercover cops opened fire on the three as they left a club in Jamaica, Queens, where they had attended Bell's bachelor party on the eve of his wedding.

While the police claim they thought one of the men was armed, the only weapons and bullets found on the scene were those of the cops who fired on the three men as they sat inside Bell’s car. The five police agents have been put on administrative duty. Queens district attorney Richard Brown has given no timetable for when the grand jury will be convened.

The day after the funeral about 350 people rallied at the scene of the shooting. They marched to the 103rd police precinct and then to Mary Immaculate Hospital, where Guzman and Benefield were recuperating.

“The police need to be in prison. We need to continue our rallies and protests,” said Jasmine Gray, a senior at Brandeis High School, in an interview.

“A friend asked me why I came, since I’m not Black," said protester Ana Sánchez. "But I said we have to work together. This could have happened to my son.”

At the rally Malik Zulu Shabazz, a lawyer and head of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which called the action, advocated a 50-day boycott of businesses not owned by Blacks.

Seeking to justify the killing, police have since claimed the existence of a “fourth man” who was armed and at the scene of the shooting. They also insist that the undercover cop who fired first had identified himself. Several witnesses interviewed December 3 by assistant district attorneys, however, refuted the cops’ claims, Charlie King, an attorney for five witnesses, told the Associated Press.

Under the pretext of searching for a "fourth man," police raided several homes November 29-30 in working-class neighborhoods in the Bronx and in Jamaica, Queens. At least six people were arrested, all on minor charges unrelated to the incident.

One of the men picked up, Eric Kellam, 29, said the police burst into his Bronx apartment and broke his nose. “They were screaming, ‘Where’s the f___ gun!’” He replied, “What are you talking about? What gun?” Kellam, who does not know any of the men involved in the incident, was not charged with any crime.

Also picked up was Jean Nelson, a witness at the scene who was initially branded by cops as the “fourth man” but later released. King, Nelson’s attorney, accused the police of “witness intimidation.”

Some 10 days after the attack, anonymous "law enforcement sources" tried to implicate Bell, Benefield, and Guzman in a drug-running scheme, telling the New York Daily News that a police informer bought crack cocaine from Bell in August, the paper reported December 5.

"This is another indication that the New York City Police Department is not investigating any wrongdoing by the officers at the scene but are interested increating cover and motivation to justify the officers' actions and dirty the name of a dead man," said Michael Hardy, the attorney for Guzman, Benefield, and Nicole Paultre, Bell's fiancée.

The two survivors of the attack have also refuted the police allegations. Interviewed in the hospital about whether the plainclothes cops who killed Bell had identified himself, Guzman emphatically said, “Never!” the Daily News reported December 5.

“No fourth man,” said Benefield as he sat in a wheelchair before his release from the hospital, the paper reported the next day. “One of my friends is dead,” he added. “We need justice.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has insisted on waiting for a “fair investigation.” Other big-business politicians have demanded the resignation of police commissioner Raymond Kelly. Some groups, like the New York Civil Liberties Union, called on the city council to form an “independent board” and recommend reforms in police training.

Appearing December 4 on CNN’s Larry King Live program, Democratic Party politician Al Sharpton, who has spoken at several protests against the police killing, said, "I think that most people that question police conduct are not questioning police. We need police."

At tonight's rally, after calling repeatedly for Kelly's resignation, Barron received applause when he said, "The cops who did this should rot in jail, and then after they die they should rot in hell."

"They're going to walk, unless the pressure from these marches gets to be too much," said protester Samantha Hebbert in an interview. "This is happening everywhere. We need to band together."

More protest actions have been called, including a December 16 march down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.

Olympia Newton contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Atlanta cop killing of elderly Black woman in her home sparks protest
Australia protesters demand prosecution of cop responsible for death of Aborigine
Record 7 million jailed, on parole or probation

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