A group of Democratic legislators says the mayor and police commissioner "demonized" an unarmed black man shot by a cop gun by revealing his sealed juvenile record. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-New York) says the buck stops here with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir. Meeks is the chairman of the statewide Council of Black Elected Democrats. [includes rush transcript]
Two days after Patrick Dorsimond was shot after being confronted by police on a Manhattan street, Meeks was joined on the steps of City Hall by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Charles Rangel.
Dorismond, a 26-year-old security guard, was leaving a midtown Manhattan bar when an undercover officer approached him. The officer asked Dorismond and another man where he could buy marijuana. The shooting occurred after Dorsimond expressed his offense at being asked that question.
The African American police officers group, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, condemned the fatal shooting. Group spokesperson Eric Adams noted that Dorismond lost his life because he "said no" to drugs.
Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network will begin a 10-day jail term on Wednesday. The jail sentence stems from a protest led by Rev. Sharpton last year. The protest against racial profiling by the New Jersey State Police blocked highway traffic.
- Reverend Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network. Call: 212.987.5020.
AMY GOODMAN: As we said at the top of the show, a group of Democratic Congress members are calling for a federal probe into another killing of another unarmed black man in New York. This case happened last week when a twenty-six year old security guard, who had just gotten off work in Midtown Manhattan, had gone over to the Wakamba Lounge, a local bar in Midtown, and come out of it with a friend. He was then approached by an undercover officer and asked if he and his friend knew where he could buy marijuana as part of a drug buy-and-bust operation. At that point, it is not clear exactly what happened, except that the police officer shot and killed Patrick Dorismond.
We’re joined right now by the Reverend Al Sharpton, who has been involved since the night of the shooting in this case. Johnnie Cochran is now representing the family. The Reverend Jesse Jackson is getting involved. And yesterday, Abner Louima, another police brutality victim, visited the grieving family of Patrick Dorismond, who, by the way, is a Haitian American. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Reverend Sharpton.
REV. AL SHARPTON: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, can you give us the latest details that you understand about what happened late Wednesday night, Thursday morning in Midtown Manhattan?
REV. AL SHARPTON: Well, according to the witnesses that we have talked with — we being the lawyers for the family and investigators from National Action Network — the two young men came out of the bar, they were approached by an undercover police officer who tried to ask them where he could get marijuana. Patrick was offended and said, "Why are you asking me that?" An argument ensued. In the argument, the policeman struck Patrick. And when the physical altercation occurred, the backup police came and shot Patrick dead.
Now, the police are saying Patrick struck the policeman. The fact of the matter is he was unarmed, he had nothing in his pocket. He certainly, according to both sides, had said "no" to being involved in a drug deal in any way, and he is dead.
And what added salt to the wound is that within hours the mayor of the city and the police commissioner went on television calling him a criminal who had been arrested for robberies and assault and even unsealed a juvenile record of his, that was supposedly sealed by the family courts, of an altercation — a very minor one, I might add — over twenty-five cents in school, but an altercation that occurred when he was thirteen. He had never been arrested for robbery. He had a disorderly conduct conviction — well, not conviction, he pled to disorderly conduct. So this whole attempt to demonize, again, a victim has added salt to the wound.
This afternoon, we’re meeting with the federal prosecutors in Eastern District who has for the last year been trying to decide whether or not to pursue a federal lawsuit that would impose a federal monitor over NYPD. We’re going to demand that they move forward with this. There’s no way that we can simply allow the city to continue to be run by — in terms of its policing — by people that are so hostile that they would disclose sealed information on a victim before an investigation is even began, less known ended, in their blatant attempt to cover a policeman no matter what the charge may be.
AMY GOODMAN: It was also very interesting considering that Rudolph Giuliani and the Police Commissioner of New York, Howard Safir, were saying, "Reserve judgment on what has happened here until all the facts and known," and at the same time, at the same news conference, they’re releasing information about the alleged record of Patrick Dorismond.
REV. AL SHARPTON: And not only releasing information, they’re also stating the policeman’s attorney’s version as if it was fact. They’re saying, as a matter of fact, there was a fight, there was a lunging for a gun. No one has proven this. This is alleged by the defense attorney of the policeman. Not even the policeman has made this statement. So while they’re telling us to reserve judgment, they’re already giving conclusions to an investigation that hasn’t already began, which is why the federal government must come in and protect the citizens of the City of New York.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, speaking of records, the police officer had a record. The police officer, apparently his wife had brought a brutality complaint or domestic violence complaint against him. And he had also been involved with the shooting to death of a dog. Is that right?
REV. AL SHARPTON: That’s correct. And it’s interesting that the mayor and police commissioner didn’t raise that, which would have been more relevant, if any of it is relevant at all. It would have been more relevant since he was the shooter. There’s no question that Patrick did not shoot the cop. The cop shot him. So if you want to look for a pattern, you don’t look for a pattern with the victim. You look for a pattern with the shooter.
AMY GOODMAN: What about Operation Condor, for this national audience — I’m sure people even in New York are not familiar with it — which involves buy-and-bust operations?
REV. AL SHARPTON: Well, it really sets up sweeps in an arbitrary manner to just go out and, in my judgment, try to entrap people into drug deals. And I think that it is clearly a way to raise quotas of arrest and to make it appear that you’re really fighting crime. But in many cases, the police are planting the idea of drug sales or drug deals in the minds of people that are not involved at all.
But, again, I don’t think we can just deal with one unit. I think we have to deal with policing at the top. The federal government should bring a monitor in and remove Commissioner Safer and Mayor Giuliani from the day-to-day operations of the police department.
AMY GOODMAN: This also involves Operation Condor. It’s federal money that supports it.
REV. AL SHARPTON: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: And one article I’m reading in Newsday today: figures released by the NYPD show that between 1997 and 2000 the annual amount of overtime for the narcotics initiatives has more than tripled to $24.3 million.
REV. AL SHARPTON: And it involves federal money, but, again, no federal oversight. It is administered locally, and it is abusive. These officers had made eight busts that day, and there are some that suggest maybe they were trying to get their quota up to ten, which is why they aggressively went after Patrick Dorismond. This kind of policing by we must get a certain number is not only is ridiculous, it robs people of their civil rights when a policeman feels that he has to violate your rights to make his quota.
AMY GOODMAN: Eric Adams, the head of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, said this is the first black man in history who died for just saying no to drugs.
REV. AL SHARPTON: Well, I think the irony of that is that if he had said "yes," maybe he would be alive. So what are we really trying to have here? Are we really fighting drugs, or are we really trying to have a situation here, where no matter what a policeman does, we’re going to say it’s justified.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, right now this discussion of a federal takeover or some kind of putting of the New York Police Department into federal receivership. Regular listeners might remember a couple of months ago we broadcast Democracy Now! out of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, which has a consent decree between the Justice Department and the local police. Can you talk about how close the New York Police Department is to this?
REV. AL SHARPTON: Well, there’s been a pending suit for a year out of Eastern District. We’re meeting with the head of Eastern District today. I do not know how close we are 'til after that meeting, but I know that we're on the verge of being unable to continue under this type of climate. I think people around the country that are prone to support us should contact their congressperson and have their congressperson note that they feel that it’s imperative the Justice Department know that people nationwide want to see NYPD taken over. It will send a signal all over this country of what will and will not be permitted by the federal government.
We saw what happened in LA was mass scandal. Here, we have had two fatal shootings since the Diallo verdict. What must happen? How many people must die before the federal government steps in and says something must be done here? The training is wrong. The accountability is wrong. And certainly the policy and attitudes at the top are wrong and endangering the lives of citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Sharpton, I want to thank you for joining us two days before you, yourself, are headed to jail. Can you explain why?
REV. AL SHARPTON: On July 3rd, 1999, we had a massive protest on the Atlantic Expressway going into Atlantic City to protest racial profiling. We felt that that 4th of July weekend, when you have more motorists than at any time, that we should make a statement, because four young men had been shot at eleven times by state troopers. They had not been indicted at that time. The New Jersey state government had ignored the issue of racial profiling. So seventy-five of us blocked the expressway and were arrested.
The governor tried to stop our protest by coming out with a racial profiling study the day before, but there still was no indictment of the actual policemen until after that demonstration. And we successfully were able to raise national attention on racial profiling with that act and other acts. Even now, in the presidential debates, racial profiling has become a national issue. So they dropped the charges on seventy-four of the demonstrators that were arrested and only prosecuted me and gave me a sentence a couple of weeks ago of ten days in jail.
I will proudly serve that time, because I think that we must send a signal that we’re willing to take whatever we have to take to raise these issues and to make this nation stop and deal with these issues. So on Wednesday at 12:00 noon Martin Luther King III, the President of SCLC and these four young men will join hundreds of others in surrendering me in Atlantic City to the county jail, where I will do ten days in jail, preparing myself for massive national day of civil disobedience that we will schedule in New York for mid-April, because it is time for us to use all the tactics available to us, from civil disobedience to marching to boycotts, whatever is available to heighten public awareness around this situation. There is no one right way. We all must use whatever tactics will move toward a collective movement toward real social change in how we are policed in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Sharpton, last week in Washington, Congressmember Joe Scarborough, Republican of Florida, introduced a resolution into the House condemning the "racist and anti-Semitic views of Al Sharpton." The resolution urges members of Congress and other public figures to repudiate and renounce Al Sharpton’s "racist words and actions, which have incited violence and widespread rioting." What is your response and —
REV. AL SHARPTON: Well, I think one would have to say, "What widespread rioting? What widespread violence?" There hasn’t been a riot in New York since Crown Heights. And according to even the state reports, I was called into Crown Heights by the victim’s family, the Cato family, after the violence had gone on for two days.
I think that this is serious political manipulation to try and do to me what they did ten years ago to Jesse Jackson. Let’s not forget when they would say a Jew would be crazy to vote for Jesse. I mean, it’s the same script. You just replace the names.
And Mr. Gore, Mr. Bradley met with us. Mr. Bradley came to my headquarters, and Mrs. Clinton, so it’s their way of trying to do the race card, as they did with Reverend Jackson and Sister Souljah and others in the past.
What is so laughable is, when you read the resolution, every item he lists never happened. He said that I incited a fire at Freddie’s. I called a man in September a white interloper. I said later I shouldn’t have referred to his race, but he certainly was an interloper when he had a fire hazards on his store, was paying people below minimum wage. A fire by someone critical of me was allegedly started three months later, so how can you blame that on me? That’s like saying that because I opposed Ronald Reagan’s policies I incited [John] Hinckley to shoot him. I mean, that was crazy. And all of his litany of things are absolutely fraudulent.
And what I challenged him to do is to take it to the floor, and let’s see who votes on it. Again, we know that the Republicans will play the race card to try and equate me with Bob Jones University, when I head an organization that is multiracial. All of our demonstrations have been multiracial. And, in fact, when we’ve gone to jail, it’s been all races. To equate me with a university that has by policy a segregationist policy is to show how bankrupt they are in defending themselves against charges of racism.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Reverend Sharpton, headed to jail on Wednesday, will be there for ten days. Thank you for being with us.
REV. AL SHARPTON: Alright.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!
GIRLFRIEND OF PATRICK DORISMOND: He has a daughter. Her name is Destiny. She just turned one years old. He has a daughter. Her name is Infinity. She just turned five years old. And what are we going to do about this now? We have to think about how she — the both of them have to eat every day. Nobody knows that. He worked hard. He worked hard for his kids. He worked and made sure —- he had holes in his shoes to make sure they had food on the table to eat, and they took that -—
AMY GOODMAN: The girlfriend of Patrick Dorismond, who was gunned down by New York police last week.