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Tens of thousands march against police killings

Published Dec 23, 2006 12:01 PM

A determined outpouring of 40,000 people, stretching 20 city blocks, rallied here on Dec. 16 to denounce the police killing of 23-year-old Sean Bell, an unarmed Black man who died after a hail of 50 police bullets on the morning of his wedding day. The crowd loudly chanted their demand for an end to racist police brutality.

Dec. 16 protest against police killing
of Sean Bell.
WW photos: G. Dunkel

Demonstrators marched down Fifth Avenue, home to some of Manhattan’s most high-end department stores and boutiques, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The police, who had originally penned in one lane of traffic for the protest, were forced to open the entire avenue for the crowd.

The march was led by Trent Benefield, a survivor of the incident who himself was shot three times by the police; Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell; and Abner Louima, a survivor of severe physical and sexual torture at the hands of the NYPD in 1997. The Rev. Al Sharpton pushed Benefield’s wheelchair. Several labor union delegations participated with their banners.

Other protests against police profiling and brutality were also held throughout the New York/New Jersey area. On Dec. 15, a march sponsored by the People’s Organization for Progress was held in Newark, N.J., to demand justice for Warren Lee. Lee died on Oct. 12 while being beaten and arrested by Newark police. Other rallies were organized by the New Black Panther Party and the October 22nd Coalition.

Since the killing of Bell on Nov. 25, New York police have not only stepped up their harassment of Black men throughout the borough of Queens, but have also come under question for another police killing, this one in the Bronx.

On Dec. 13, police killed 19-year-old Timur Person, who they say was carrying a gun on him. However, eyewitness Hector Suarez told the media that the police shot Person at close range as he told cops, “I’m giving you the gun.” Suarez said, “[The officer] stood over his head and he just looked down at him and he just shot four times, one, two, three, four.” (Newsday, Dec. 14) Denise Morales, Suarez’s wife, says police have repeatedly tried to question Suarez without a lawyer since the incident. (NY1, Dec. 15)

An upcoming rally will focus on disrupting those who profit from the criminalization of the poor and people of color. A Day of Outrage to “Shut Wall Street down” is planned for Dec. 21. An e-mail announcement by the Black Men’s Movement and the Dec. 12th Movement, organizers of the protest, urges a citywide boycott: “Because we have no justice, they should have no profit. ... Police don’t have a problem killing us and manufacturing lies to cover their crimes. Our taxes pay the salaries of people who have no problem taking our lives with impunity.”

The announcement continues, “We need to keep our money in our pockets and wallets. They will understand this even if they don’t understand or care that we are tired of the injustice and total lack of respect.”

For more information on the Day of Outrage, one in a series of rallies against the police state, contact 718-398-1166.

E-mail: [email protected]