Powder keg: rallying for a cause
Amsterdam News Staff


Originally posted 11/30/2006

“They just killed my son,” said William Bell. “For what reason I don’t think they even know.”
Detective Michael Oliver, Det. Mark Cooper, Det. Paul Hedley, P.O. Michael Carey, and an unnamed undercover cop, are the NYPD police officers of whom Bell speaks, the Amsterdam News has learned exclusively.
Rashida Edness, Lt. Gary Napoli and two other undercover officers were part of the squad, but did not fire their weapons.
Friday December 1 will be a tough day for a Queens family, as they bury their son, Sean Bell, who was gunned down in a hail of at least 50 police bullets on his wedding day, as he exited a club after a bachelor party celebration with friends.
A week of high intensity meetings with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and community rallies still has brought no answers as to why on November 25, 2006, Detective Michael Oliver fired off 31 shots from his police-issue firearm, sparking – according to cops – a bout of “contagious” or “sympathy” shooting by four other fellow officers.
“Nine shots more than Diallo!” charged Councilman Charles Barron. “This police department is out of control, and I don’t think that we can contain the level of anger that is building in our community.”
Cops fired on a car driven by Bell and his friends, after they left the club, and police charge they had gotten into a fracas with other club goers, and one member of Bell’s party said something about going to get a gun.
No gun was found on any of the victims or in the car.
Police claim that officers fired in self-defense as the car was driven towards them. It is disputed whether or not they identified themselves. Sources close to the family say that the young men feared for their lives and did not know that the five plain-clothed and undercover, white, Black and Latino shooters were cops.
It is known that the man who began firing, even though there was never any return fire, reloaded his weapon, and had been drinking in the strip club –apparently as part of his undercover look.
The police department’s own rules state that an officer can not fire on a vehicle driven at them if that is the only force being used against them.
A big prayer vigil, led by Revereands Al Sharpton, Herbert Daughtry and Jesse Jackson, took place in Queens on Sunday for the deceased and two surviving victims. Another is set for Saturday, organized by the New Black Panther Party, CEMOTAP, Black Extended Family and even “Bloods and Crips” members.
On Wednesday, yet another rally is set to take place outside police headquarters in lower Manhattan.
Yesterday Sharpton took the Bell family and Sean’s fiancé to visit the site of his death.
“They were devastated,” the minister told the AmNews. “It was just terrible. But they wanted to see it. On Friday, they will bury the man who was supposed to be on his honeymoon, now his fiancé Nicole has to raise their two young daughters by herself, and the family just wants to be left alone to mourn.”
Sharpton added that he had visited with Joseph Guzman, one of the victims with 15 bullets in his body. He said he demanded that he no longer be handcuffed to the bed, as he had committed no crime. On Wednesday, he said that Guzman spoke for the first time, telling him, “They tried to kill me. They killed Sean; we didn’t do anything.”
Sharpton was gratified by what he called the “tremendous turnout” for Sunday’s rally, and said that after a meeting next week with religious and community leaders, they will come together to strategize about “picking a day for shopping for justice.” Sounding like a New York City boycott of old, Sharpton said that a shopping district will be selected and consumer spending power withdrawal exercised.
“This time last year, the MTA strike shut down the city for two days, so we know what it is like. While people come from all over the country to buy holiday gifts, we want them to know that it is no holiday for us as we bury our dead.”
When John Conyers takes over as chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sharpton says that he will be calling for hearings “on what is going on in the police department under Ray Kelly’s administration.”
As for the immediate future, “We have called on leadership from across the board,” said Sharpton, even those who have had longstanding beef. “We’ve all got a role to play.”
Sharpton said he is yet to be impressed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s response. The meetings he has had with the mayor have “been blunt, sometimes loud, but the times call for policy changes,” he said.”
Organizing a rally on Wednesday at Brooklyn's Medgar Ever's College, where hip hop aficionados protested “against police terrorism,” Rosa Clemente stated, “We really need media to know that we as a Hip Hop community are coming together to take more proactive measures, as we feel many of these ‘leaders’ are already playing the politic[al] game.”
Clemente, an organizer with the REACHip Hop Coalition, told the AmNews, “The hip hop community must stand up to ensure justice for all three men who were members of the Hip Hop Generation. We will not accept apologies, or “sorries”—we want immediate consequences against the police for their actions. We demand the resignation of commissioner Ray Kelly, Deputy Commissioner Anthony Izzo, and the immediate unpaid removal of the police officers.”
“There should not be one Black radio personality who is talking about this police murder continuously, including the likes of Miss Jones, Wendy Williams, Steve Harvey and Michael Baisden,” blasted Divine Allah, Youth Minister with the New Black Panther Party. “We should break the chains, shut down all the buffoonery, and after the brother is laid to rest, organize with the youth – whose voices are not being heard – to instill some economic justice in the area where he was murdered. We can begin by shutting down the liquor stores and strip clubs.”
Allah continued that Saturday’s rally will begin gathering at 11a.m. at 94th and Liverpool Street, outside the club where Bell was gunned down.
“The bar has been raised, and we must find our genuine standard bearers who will speak to our immediate and desperate issues. We must check our moral, spiritual, political and economic value systems, organize together, so that should this happen again, we already have a strong coalition in place to inflict the repercussions – that needs to happen. This is yet another wake up call. And to all the street organizations – if you must bang – then bang for freedom and liberation and unity.”
Police said this week that they have heard about retaliatory threats allegedly from gangs, and are on alert.
Marquez Claxton, a spokesman for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, told the Amsterdam News that the more things change, the more things stay exactly the same. The blueprint enacted this post-shooting week is from the post Amadou Diallo and Timothy Stansbury police shooting playbook.
“While scores of elected officials and religious leaders are holding a series of meetings and photo ops with Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly, there seems to be no conversation of their culpability for the killing and Sean Bell and the critical wounding of Benefield and Joseph Guzman.”
“Alberta Spruil, Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury, and now Sean Bell were all killed by police under Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s watch,” Claxton asserted. “When does is he held accountable?”
And as for the host of elected and religious notables standing post as the mayor delivers daily overviews regarding the shooting, going as far as to admit that the 50 shots fired were “excessive,” but he not wanting to prejudice an ongoing investigation, Claxton noted that, “We are the only community that goes into these high profile meetings without a list of substantive demands or a deadline. Hollow assurances may temporarily sooth the soul, but in this case, heads should roll. As a show of ultimate disrespect and lousy timing, Mayor Bloomberg defiantly stated that Commissioner Kelly’s job is secure as long as he is mayor. This proclamation was made with the backdrop of Black elected officials and clergy who had just attended a meeting with the Mayor, and yet did not protest.”
On Wednesday December 6, 2006, the Brooklyn-based December 12th Movement will be organizing a protest rally at One Police Plaza at 4.30pm, to “resist the rise of fascism and the rise of the American police state.”
Citing “petty” so-called infractions such as everything from sitting on a front porch to playing music at a barbeque, D12 said that police harassment has risen to ridiculous levels.
Spokesperson Amadi Ajamu noted that the police killing of Bell “underscores the urgent need for a fundamental change in the NYC police department. The NYPD has escalated its aggression toward the Black community across the city. Community leaders are mobilizing a grassroots resistance movement to demand that Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly rein in their rabid police force.”