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NYPD terror continues

Cop guns down unarmed African immigrant

By Monica Moorehead
New York

Ousmane Zongo, a 35-year-old West African from Burkina Faso, was gunned down by Police Officer Bryan Conroy at the Chelsea Mini-Storage warehouse located in Manhattan near the Hudson River on May 22. Zongo, a repairer of damaged African artifacts, was shot four times. Conroy was dressed in plainclothes when he killed Zongo.

The Chelsea Mini-Storage warehouse has become an important site for exhibiting African arts and crafts. It has also become a make-shift mosque for African traders who follow the teachings of the Koran.

New York Police Department officials say Zongo was shot during a police raid on the warehouse. Cops were supposedly out to bust what they claim was a counterfeit compact-disk operation.

Zongo, they admit, was unarmed, had no police record and had nothing to do with any illegal activity of any kind. (New York Times, May 26) Conroy alleges that Zongo tried to grab his gun. (Daily News, May 27)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "Keep in mind, this is a situation where apparently there were no witnesses, so it will take a while to get the facts out."

But the Rev. Al Sharpton announced at a May 26 news conference that he was in touch with a worker who witnessed the fatal shooting. Sharpton is leader of the National Action Network, which was in the forefront of the protests against the Amadou Diallo shooting.

Michael Hardy, Sharpton's attorney, said the witness is a West African man who was working nearby. "It would be fair to say that he was present during the period of the encounter," Hardy explained. "They were in close proximity during the initial time."

"We are convinced that what he has to say would be significant," Sharpton told reporters. Sharpton added that several people have contacted him about the shooting. All are reluctant to speak to prosecutors, he said.

Sharpton concluded that he has "serious questions about how four bullets could have been a reaction to an alleged lunging." He also questioned the objectivity of the Manhattan district attorney's office. He pointed out that the district attorney's office having helped police obtain a search warrant for the raid creates a possible conflict of interest in the shooting inquiry.

Let the NYPD police itself?

Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Bloom berg tried to deflect outrage, saying that the investigation should be left in the hands of the NYPD and a grand jury.

On May 16, less than a week before the NYPD shot Zongo, Alberta Spruill--a 57-year-old African American city worker--suffered a fatal heart attack when New York police staged a stun-grenade terror raid on her Harlem apartment. Many Harlem residents and other progressive activists are holding protests calling for an independent investigation.

The shooting of Zongo also recalls painful memories of the Feb. 4, 1999, police killing of 26-year-old Amadou Diallo, also an African immigrant. Four white plainclothes cops shot Diallo 41 times as he stood in the vestibule of his apartment in the Bronx. Like Zongo, Diallo was unarmed when he was brutally cut down. The killing of Diallo sent shock waves throughout the country and the world, and set off a tidal wave of anti-police-brutality protests throughout New York City. All four police officers were later exonerated.

When asked about the Spruill and Zongo killings, Bloomberg said: "I don't think there's any evidence that there's a trend in police misconduct. There were a couple of incidents that should have never have happened--at least are still under investigation--but it would appear that something was done wrong."

This is the same billionaire mayor who is currently carrying out devastating layoffs and budget cuts--including shutting down firehouses in oppressed and working-class neighborhoods. And this is the same NYPD that's working hand in hand with the mayor to arrest residents who are carrying out civil disobedience to stop the firehouse closings in an attempt to save firefighter jobs as well as save their own dwellings and lives.

The mayor and his police force are setting the stage for mass protests against the layoffs and budget cuts, and for the fight against ongoing police brutality. These movements would gain great power by merging their struggles to make clear that the police do not exist under capitalist society to "protect and serve" the people. Instead they protect and serve the private property interests of the corporate and banking elite.

Reprinted from the June 5, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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