Friday, April 25, 2008

Sean Bell, RIP

As expected, or as I expected, the murderers of Sean Bell were acquitted today.

Tearful, angry crowd gathered outside courthouse
Friday, April 25, 2008 | 11:40 AM

The wail that came up from the crowd was as if they heard that Sean Bell had died again.

"No!" they shouted, while dozens of people, wearing Bell's face on hats, T-shirts and buttons, burst into sobs.

The scene unfolded outside the courthouse Friday as three police officers were cleared of all charges in the 2006 shooting of Bell, who died in a hail of 50 bullets on his wedding day.

Hundreds of friends of Bell and others wanted vindication for what they called a racially motivated shooting, and they reacted with tears and explosive anger to the officers' acquittal.

Many people in the predominantly black crowd began reciting other cases where black New Yorkers were shot by police, and the officers, they said, got away with it.

"This was a disgrace, what happened today," shouted Calvin Hutton, a Harlem resident. "We prayed for a different result, but we got the same old bull----."

Inside the packed Queens courtroom, gasps could be heard when Judge Arthur Cooperman acquitted the officers. Bell's mother cried; her husband put his arm around her and shook his head. Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell, left the courtroom immediately. Officer Michael Oliver, who fired the most shots, also cried.

"It hurts," said Paultre Bell's attorney, Michael Hardy. "If it didn't you wouldn't be human. Because it touches real lives. ... This is not over. This is not over."

A friend led a visibly upset shooting survivor Trent Benefield from the courthouse, with an arm firmly around his shoulders, while enraged people outside shouted "Murderers! Murderers!"

Scores of police officers formed lines in the middle of traffic to block the crowd from charging the courthouse. Some spectators briefly jostled with the officers right after the verdict was announced and several people rushed out of the courthouse, but the contact didn't become violent.

The crowd wore black T-shirts with Bell's face in a yellow circle in the middle, while other shirts read "Justice for Sean Bell." One group held a banner proclaiming, "50 Shots. 50 More Reasons We Need Revolution."

Dozens of people briefly began pushing and shoving each other as a crowd of hundreds started a processional following Bell's fiancee and Rev. Al Sharpton to their cars, on their way to Bell's gravesite. No one was hurt or arrested.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, "We don't anticipate violence, but we are prepared for any contingency."

Despite the anger over the verdict, the protests were muted compared with past verdicts where officers were cleared in police shootings of black men. Several factors contributed to this, including improved race relations in the city in recent years and the fact that two of the officers are black.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the judge sent a message to officers that "when you're in front of the bench, that you will get fairness." But he said of the case: "there's no winners, there's no losers. We still have a death that occurred."

William Hardgraves, 48, an electrician from Harlem, brought his 12-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter to hear the verdict. "It could have been my son, it could have been my daughter" shot like Bell that night, he said.

He didn't know what result he had expected.

"I hoped it would be different this time. They shot him 50 times," Hardgraves said. "But of course, it wasn't."

(Copyright ©2008 WABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

I do not mean to sound overly cynical or disrespectful to the very real and understandable outrage that people outside of the New York City courtroom feel, but why is anyone surprised? The only evolution in the mentality of local law enforcement in this country is that if this had occurred in another state fifty years ago, they would have claimed Sean Bell committed suicide by shooting himself over 30 times with a police officer's revolver. Now, they just claim it was a split second mistake, even though one of the murderers took the time to unload his weapon, reload it, and continue to shoot. The irony is the cops and their white conservative apologists never want to live the standards and punishment they would exact on anyone else who committed a similar crime. Like their friends from the leadership of the Church when rationalizing acts of pedophilia among their employees, it all comes down to a mistaken choice, naturally.

By the way, just in case you would like to get in contact with the judge who basically declared that shooting unarmed people 50 times is less punishable than a parking fine, here are the particulars.

Hon. Arthur J. Cooperman

Supreme Court of the State of New York
125-01 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
(718) 298-1000

And since Art is described by his sycophants at the New York Post as a "no-nonsense judge," you should feel free to tell him in a no-nonsense way what you think of him and his view on sanctioning the murder of citizens who do not look like or live within a mile radius of himself. I am sure he will appreciate the honesty.

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