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Monday, February 28, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | PREVIOUS: Mumia Supporters Hold Mass Civil Disobedience at US...
2000-02-28

Thousands Protest Acquittal of Police Officers Who Killed Amadou Diallo

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Thousands of people protested over the weekend after four white New York City police officers were acquitted in the murder of Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who died last year in a hail of 41 bullets. Minutes after an Albany jury pronounced the "not guilty" verdicts on Friday evening, hundreds of people poured into Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx, where Diallo was killed on February 3, 1999, as he stood in the vestibule of his apartment building. The protesters marched to the police precinct. [includes rush transcript]

Words of frustration, anger and indignation resounded all over the city, from Harlem, where hundreds gathered to hear the Rev. Al Sharpton and Amadou Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou Diallo, to the busy streets of Midtown Manhattan, where over 2,000 people marched and 90 were arrested on Saturday after committing civil disobedience, to the United Nations, where more than 1,000 people assembled yesterday for a prayer vigil.

The four officers — Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy — were found not guilty of all charges against them, which included second-degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

Jurors have said little about their decision to acquit the officers, but one said, "If anyone has a problem with the verdict, they should look at the case presented by the people."

After the verdicts were announced, the defense attorneys went back to a bed and breakfast to drink champagne served to them by the brother and sister who had hosted them throughout the trial. As they celebrated the victory, Judge Joseph Teresi stopped by for 10 minutes and had a drink with the lawyers, said a source at the party, adding that the judge thanked them for their professionalism throughout the trial.

There is still the possibility that the Justice Department will take over the case and prosecute the officers for violating Diallo’s civil rights. The police department said that they are also investigating the killing to determine whether the officers will face departmental charges.

Tape:

  • Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network.
  • Norman Siegel, head of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
  • Sounds of Protests in New York.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

PROTESTERS: Hey hey! Ho ho! These racist cops have got to go! Hey hey! Ho ho! These racist cops have got to go! Hey hey! Ho ho! These racist cops have got to go! Hey hey! Ho ho! These racist cops have got to go!

AMY GOODMAN: It’s Saturday afternoon at about 3:00, standing on the corner of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. More than a thousand people have gathered and are beginning their march down Fifth Avenue, protesting the verdicts yesterday: the four white police officers acquitted in the murder of Amadou Diallo. There are also hundreds of police officers, ranging from those wearing riot gear to those in regular uniform to community police. Among the signs that we see people holding, “This is not justice,” “Justice denied” with a picture of Mayor Giuliani and someone hanging from a tree, as well as people wearing T-shirts that have the number one through 41. Often people will stop and just start counting off “one, two, three, four,” until they get to 41.

PROTESTERS: Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41!

Don’t shoot!

Murder!

It’s a wallet, not a gun! It’s a wallet, not a gun!

AMY GOODMAN: Thousands of people in the streets on Saturday and Sunday, estimates of between 3,000 and 5,000 people on Saturday, who marched from center of Manhattan. The protesters have planned this for weeks, when a verdict came down, to be in the heart of power of New York, at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, and then went down to Times Square. There were also scores of arrests. As you could hear, people saying, "It’s a wallet, not a gun, 41," as hundreds of people took out their wallets and waved them at the police.

Yes, we’re talking about the case of the four New York City police officers acquitted of the murder of Amadou Diallo, the immigrant from Guinea who died last year in a hail of 41 police bullets. Minutes after the Albany jury pronounced the "not guilty" verdict on Friday evening, hundreds of people poured into Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx where Diallo was killed on February 4th, 1999, as he stood in the vestibule of his apartment building. The protesters then marched to the police precinct as the words of the jury forewoman continued to ring in their ears.

JURY FOREWOMAN: Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty.

AMY GOODMAN: And that jury forewoman was the mother of — is the mother of a military policeman. Words of frustration, anger and indignation resounded all over the city, from Harlem, where hundreds gathered to hear the Reverend Al Sharpton and Amadou Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou Diallo, to the busy streets of Midtown Manhattan.

The four officers — Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy — were found not guilty of all the charges against them, which included second-degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment. Jurors have said little about their decision to acquit the officers, but one did say, "If anyone has a problem with the verdict, they should look at the case presented by the people." That was the prosecution.

After the verdicts were announced, the New York Daily News reports that the defense attorneys went back to their bed and breakfast to drink champagne served to them by the brother and sister who had hosted them throughout the trial. And as they celebrated, the judge, State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Teresi, stopped by for 10 minutes and had a drink with the lawyers, said a source at the party, adding that the judge thanked them for their professionalism throughout the trial. No word whether he also joined the prosecution at their dinner.

There is still the possibility that the Justice Department will take over the case and prosecute the officers for violating Amadou Diallo’s civil rights. The Police Department said they’re also investigating the killing to determine whether the officers will face departmental charges. They remain on the police payroll.

Yesterday, in the afternoon, the Reverend Al Sharpton and many others gathered across the street from the United Nations, and this is what Al Sharpton had to say.

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: What do we want?

CROWD: Justice!

REV. AL SHARPTON: What do we want?

CROWD: Justice!

REV. AL SHARPTON: What do we want?

CROWD: Justice!

REV. AL SHARPTON: When do we want it?

CROWD: Now!

REV. AL SHARPTON: When do we want it?

CROWD: Now!

REV. AL SHARPTON: When do we want it?

CROWD: Now!

REV. AL SHARPTON: When do we want it?

CROWD: Now!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: No justice!

CROWD: No peace!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Amadou!

CROWD: Amadou!

REV. AL SHARPTON: All right. We, on yesterday, let — she’s right, lower your signs so people behind you can see. Thank you. Alright, you got it. We’re with you.

On yesterday, we called for a thousand people, across all lines of this city, to meet us at the United Nations. You can see that much more than a thousand are already here. Why come to the United Nations? Because in this city that houses this building, that in this building, they talk about human rights. They talk about those nations that violate the rights of their citizens. They talk in this building about world policy. They need to know that right in the city they sit, that an unarmed innocent man committing no crime was shot down, and they said it was not a crime. How can the United States talk about any foreign country, when right in this city one of the greatest violations of human rights occurred to Amadou Diallo on February 4th, 1999?

Amadou Diallo could have been the son of any ambassador to the U.N. Amadou Diallo could have been an employee at any consul general’s office. If it is now legal for policemen to use deadly force if he imagines he’s facing a threat, then that means every ambassador, employee of the U.N. better watch coming in their vestibule in this city.

They need to ask this country, will they hear the plea of this family for the federal government to step in this case? They said, "Well, do they have the grounds to come in?" The first ground is that we have the civil right to stand in the vestibule of our own homes. I’m not a lawyer, but I have common sense. I have the right to stand on my stoop. I have the right to look down my block. I have the right not to be a suspect because of the color of my skin or because of the address I live at.

NORMAN SIEGEL:* I’m here to tell you, and especially tell our young people, there is nothing illegal, there is nothing suspicious, about not responding to a police officer when they ask you questions when you’re on the street. Now, practically speaking, it’s not smart.

AMY GOODMAN: New York Civil Liberties Union attorney, Norman Siegel.

NORMAN SIEGEL:* Practically speaking, it doesn’t make sense not to be polite, respectful and cooperative to the police. But there’s nothing, nothing illegal if you decide you don’t want to speak to a police officer and you are not engaged in any illegal activity. You don’t have to respond. And the point that I make, as a lawyer who believes in the law, we cannot allow our rights and liberties to be eroded by misinformation. It is important for us to be educated, informed and knowledgeable of what our rights and responsibilities are. And one of the points is, you do not have to respond to a police officer on the street if you’re not engaged in any illegal activity.

In conclusion, this has been a wonderful day. We need to have more days like this. We need to have people coming and leading. And we need people to be coming together. In a constitutional democracy, which is what we’re supposed to be, it’s we the people, you and I, who must, must have control and accountability over the people we employ. Those folks standing over there and on the sideline, they work for us. They work for us. We should never forget it, and they should never forget it. Now, we need control and accountability over the people we not only employ, but the ones that —

CROWD: They work for us! They work for us! They work for us! They work for us!

NORMAN SIEGEL:* They do. They do.

CROWD: They work for us! They work for us! They work for us! They work for us!

NORMAN SIEGEL:* And since they work for us, we must have control and accountability over them. The reality is that it’s painful. You’ve heard some of the family members of victims. It’s painful, and we should never minimize that. The reality is that today, February 2000 in New York City, we do not have adequate control and accountability over the people who work for us. So we need to come together across racial and geographical lines. We need to learn about each other. We need to work with each other. We need to win with each other, because there is a civil rights movement waiting to be organized in our town. Thirty-four years ago, I went as a Brooklyn kid to Mississippi in the Southern civil rights movement. I say Southern, because, friends, we ain’t had our civil rights movement yet. We need to bring the spirit, the energy of the Southern civil rights movement up South to New York City. And here, this time, it won’t be just black and white together. Listen to me. It will be black, it will be brown, it will be red, it will be yellow, it will be lavender, it will be grey, it will be pink and white together. We shall, we shall, we shall overcome!

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: And you are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! Those last speakers, New York Civil Liberties Union’s attorney Norman Siegel and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

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