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August 29, 1997

Today in New York City, thousands will be marching to protest the police beating and torture of a Haitian immigrant earlier this month. The march — which is drawing people from all over the United States — is expected to be the largest demonstration against police brutality in the city’s history, if not the country.

If nothing else, today’s march illustrates the revulsion and outrage that many in New York and across the country feel about the torture of 30-year-old Abner Louima. US Attorney Zachary Carter called the incident and act of incomprehensible depravity.

In the early morning hours of Saturday August 9 outside a New York nightclub, police arrested Abner Louima, apparently mistaking him for another man who had been involved in a fight. Louima and local prosecutors charge that police threw him into a police cruiser and then beat him repeatedly.

The police took him to the local precinct where they shoved a bathroom plunger up his rectum, tearing his colon and bladder. Officers then forced the bloody and dirty plunger into Louima’s mouth, breaking his teeth. Throughout the ordeal, officers verbally abused Louima with racial epithets and denounced his accented English.

Four police have been arrested and charged in connection with the case.

Originally, police officers sought to cover the case up, both at the precinct and at the local hospital. But for the perseverance of one nurse — Magalie Laurent who we spoke to on Wednesday’s Democracy Now! — they may very well have been successful.

One of the most alarming issues raised by the beating of Louima has been the ongoing — and indeed ferocious — racism within the New York Police Department.

• David Sears, a reporter for Pacifica Radio-WBAI.
• Stephen M. Zanowic, a US Marshall’s Service Deputy and formerly a New York police officer.
• Mathew Fogg, a Supervisory Inspector with the US Marshall’s Service and the president of the Federal Marshall’s Coalition Against Racism and Corruption.
• Tyrone Powers, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent for nine and a half years and the author of Ice to My Soul: The Rise or Decline of a Black FBI Agent.

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