The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 71/No. 3           January 22, 2007  
‘Jail killer cops!’ say protesters at N.Y. 50-day vigil
(front page)
JAMAICA, New York—“We are here to let them know we are standing up for justice,” said retired tool and die maker George Taggart outside the 103rd Police Precinct here January 4. Taggart is one of dozens holding a 50-day vigil to protest the November 25 police killing of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old Black worker.

“The cops must be held accountable for killing Sean,” said Taggart, a Bell family friend. “They are not above the law.”

The round-the-clock vigil began January 1 at 4:56 a.m., the time Bell was killed. Initiated by Valerie Bell, Sean’s mother, the action demands the immediate prosecution of the cops who killed Sean Bell and calls for a special prosecutor. It spans one day for each shot fired on Bell and his two friends as they left Bell’s bachelor party.

Five plainclothes cops gunned down Bell as he, Joseph Guzman, 31, and Trent Benefield, 23, sat in Bell’s car outside a Jamaica nightclub. Both Benefield and Guzman were shot multiple times; Guzman is still recovering at a Queens hospital. All three men were unarmed.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown convened a grand jury to investigate the shooting January 2. The 23-member panel has a six-month term and will not begin reviewing evidence for weeks, according to the New York Daily News. Once they do that, jurors are expected to spend at least a month reviewing material from more than 40 witnesses, and from one of the cops who fired the shots.

“The fact that the grand jury has been impaneled doesn’t change our demand for a special prosecutor,” said Bell family attorney Neville Mitchell. “We have no faith in District Attorney Brown.”

The vigil, the latest in a string of protests since the shooting, features a large canvas banner with Bell’s picture in the center. Scattered around his image are 50 numbered gunshots and the words “NEVER AGAIN.”

People come by to show support and bring coffee, fruit, and other snacks. Passing drivers wave or honk in solidarity. Visitors sign a book with messages of support. Vigil organizers distribute canvas vests with the same image as the banner to those joining the action. “People have come from as far away as New Orleans to show their support,” said Jason Powell, a close friend of Bell. “We are demanding the prosecution of the cops. If it was one of us, we would be prosecuted the next day.”

Meanwhile, the New York Police Department (NYPD) continues its efforts to justify the actions of the officers involved. The Police Foundation hired the consulting firm Rand Corp. to “review” NYPD’s weapons training. The six-month, $500,000 study will “look at the latest technology to improve officer responses in highly stressful situations,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told the media.

On January 5, the NYPD invited reporters to participate in a weapons-training drill “to illustrate the tough split-second decisions cops make on the streets,” reported WABC-TV News. The report noted that “police officers want us and you to understand” the “high stakes, high stress moment.”

New York cops killed a total of 13 people last year, compared with nine in 2005.  
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