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2008-05-08

200 Arrested in Massive Show of Civil Disobedience Over Police Acquittals in Killing of Sean Bell

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More than 200 people have been arrested in a day of protest over acquittal of three police officers in the killing of Sean Bell. The twenty-three-year-old Bell died in a hail of fifty police bullets on the morning of what would have been his wedding day in November 2006. He was unarmed. On Wednesday, demonstrators halted traffic at six busy intersections in Manhattan and Brooklyn. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York, more than 200 people have been arrested in a day of protest over the acquittal of three police officers in the killing of Sean Bell. The twenty-three-year-old Bell died in a hail of fifty police bullets on the morning of what would have been his wedding day in November of 2006. Bell was unarmed. On Wednesday, demonstrators halted traffic at six busy intersections in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Democracy Now! interviewed protesters on the way to the Lincoln Tunnel.

    PROTESTERS: No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace!

    PROTESTER: People from all over New York City is coming to the [inaudible] to raise our voices. The judge verdict was an insult to our community. While this will not bring Sean Bell back, it will continue to raise the high profile of the misconduct of some police within NYPD.

    PROTESTER: A lot of people really expected the court to go the way it did, but I really didn’t, so I was a little bit horrified.

    PROTEST ORGANIZER: This is a nonviolent protest, alright? These are the things we don’t want you to do. Don’t respond to any people that are trying to agitate you. Don’t listen. No matter what they say — jeers, shouts — just remain silent. If you are touched by an authority, do not resist. If you are sitting down in a position to be arrested, when they tell you you’re under arrest, stand up. Don’t make them pick you up.

    PROTESTER: I made the decision to get arrested today, because I think that it was surprising. It wasn’t surprising that they killed another black man in New York City, but it was surprising that in spite of overwhelming evidence, that he didn’t have a gun, that he got charged with absolutely nothing, and it’s outrageous. And I think anybody who can, this is sort of the incident that sparks you to sort of get out of your normal routine and break the law.

    PROTESTER: I need some questions answered. One police officer shot thirty-one times, and he was found not guilty of excessive force. So I need to know what the number is that makes it become excessive force.

    PROTESTER: This is one of the few times this year you look around and see a bunch of people of different race, different backgrounds, gathered together, saying we’re sick of it, we’re not going to do it anymore, because it affects everyone.

    PROTESTER: I’m confident in the people of this city. I’m confident in the city. And I think that we can rise above this, but we have to do it in one unified voice, and there has to be change. It has to stop. The people of color in their communities are being brutalized, and there’s no reason for it, there’s no justification for it. And the courts allow this to happen. There must be justice. There must be change. And adding our voice to this social injustice is something that we must do.

    PROTESTER: It’s important that we be here. And somehow, I think that the Sean Bell case, because of the horror of it, these three police officers being exonerated, we have got to come out now and keep on, keep on, keep on. Yeah, that’s how it is.

AMY GOODMAN: The protesters were interviewed by Democracy Now!’s Nicole Salazar and Nemo Allen. More than 1,000 people reportedly took part in the protests. Among those arrested were Sean Bell’s fiancee, Nicole Paultre-Bell; the two surviving shooting victims, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield; and the Reverend Al Sharpton. The four were trailed at the Brooklyn Bridge by a large crowd who kneeled in prayer and counted from one to fifty to mark the number of bullets fired by police. Sharpton says the protests will continue in an effort to build support for federal civil rights charges in Bell’s killing.

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