Sean Bell Protests End in Arrests
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
From NPR News, this is News & Notes. I'm Farai Chideya. Marches and pray-ins were held in New York, Chicago and Atlanta yesterday to protest the acquittal of three New York detectives charged in the 2006 death of Sean Bell. Hundreds of people were arrested in New York for civil disobedience, including the Reverend Al Sharpton and Sean Bell's fiancee. Joining us today is NPR correspondent Margot Adler. She covered the demonstrations yesterday. Hey, Margot.
MARGOT ADLER: Hello, Farai.
CHIDEYA: So let's play a clip of what you taped yesterday.
(Soundbite of demonstrators)
Unidentified Demonstrators: 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50.
CHIDEYA: So what was all that counting about?
ADLER: Well, that was counting the 50 shots that were fired by the three detectives that killed Sean Bell and wounded two of his friends as they were coming out of that Queens nightclub in 2006. The demonstrations, you know, came in the light of the verdict by Judge Arthur Cooperman on April 25th, who basically acquitted these officers and said that, well, there might have been incompetence, there might have been carelessness, but it did not rise to the criminal. And so now there is all this effort to basically launch a federal civil rights investigation and to do protests.
And this protest, which - you know, the protest had been very muted, I would say, right after the verdict. And I think that was partly because there had been serious lines of communications between the Bell family and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, possibly because two of the officers were black. But I think what's happened now is a mounting frustration. And this demonstration was very much like an old civil rights, old-fashioned civil rights demonstration. Two hundred and sixteen people were arrested, including Sean Bell's two friends, including Nicole Paultre Bell, the fiancee, including Al Sharpton. And it was done very non-violently, at six different locations blocking bridges and tunnels. You know, lawyers there to take down names. It reminded me of an old-style civil rights '60s demonstration.
CHIDEYA: So is there any hint of where the demonstrations will go from here? Will there be more? Will Reverend Sharpton - has he announced any plans to move forward?
ADLER: I think there will be more demonstrations. Today, this afternoon, Al Sharpton is meeting with New York Governor Paterson. As you know, in the past, Congressman Conyers was meeting with him, with Al Sharpton. And, you know, this frustration comes right at the same time as a new report that basically says in the last year, 425,000 people in New York City were stopped and frisked, 90 percent of them minorities. So I think that there's still an enormous alienation between the police and certain parts of the community.
CHIDEYA: Well, Margot, thanks for your report.
ADLER: It's always a pleasure.
CHIDEYA: Margot Adler is an NPR correspondent based in New York and she joined us from our NPR studios in New York.
Reverend Herbert Daughtry was one of the more than 200 people arrested yesterday. He organized a demonstration outside his Brooklyn church to protest the verdict in the Sean Bell case. We spoke to the reverend before the protest and now we'll get an update on how they went. Reverend Herbert Daughtry, thanks for joining us.
Reverend HERBERT DAUGHTRY (House of the Lord Church, Brooklyn, New York): Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
CHIDEYA: So describe what you were doing and where you were when you got arrested.
Reverend DAUGHTRY: Yeah, just to put things in proper perspective, we wasn't muted after the verdict. What we said is that we were going to organize to shut the city down. And it took time to have rallies. We had a number of rallies, organizing meetings, committee meetings, in preparation for the action that we implemented yesterday and for future actions. So when we were ready, after a series of meetings, we decided on six sites, which were key arteries in New York City. And we decided who would get arrested. We had to recruit people who would get arrested.
CHIDEYA: And where were you? Where you outside of your church in downtown Brooklyn?
Reverend DAUGHTRY: No, that was one of the meeting places.
Reverend DAUGHTRY: One of the meeting sites was my church in downtown Brooklyn. We met at the church. We, again, identified those persons who were going to be arrested. Our plan was to march from my church to the Brooklyn Bridge, which is approximately maybe 10 blocks away. The Brooklyn Bridge would be shut down on the Manhattan side by Reverend Sharpton. We would march to the bridge and stand there for a minute and then move down what would be, I think, eastward toward the Manhattan Bridge, which also goes into Manhattan from Brooklyn. And that is precisely what we did. We marched down toward the Manhattan Bridge. And in addition to that, we marched to the foot of the BQE, which is another artery coming in from Queens. And we marched from this artery to the Manhattan Bridge.
CHIDEYA: So you're really talking about major, major areas that are controlling huge volumes of traffic. What was the mood?
Reverend DAUGHTRY: Oh, the mood was - there was anger. There was relief, anger at the verdict, at the killing and then the verdict by the judge. And then there was relief. You know, people felt that they were doing something. I mean, few things are more frustrating than to feel that an injustice has been committed and there isn't anything that you can do. And of course, that's one of the challenges of leadership, to provide channels for people's legitimate indignation. So there was an exhilaration. There was an anger. There was a relief. And there was wide participation. I think we have a movement on our hands.
And what I mean by that is that when an issue, an injustice, grips a city, then you get wide participation. The young, the old, all nationalities, all religions, and particularly, first time participants. Then you know that people are on the move and you look and you wonder what is happening to the minds, the spirits of the people who are involved. Because now if you've got a movement, it will spill over into other issues.
CHIDEYA: Well, Reverend Daughtry, thank you so much for joining us again.
Reverend DAUGHTRY: Thank you for inviting me. Any time at all.
CHIDEYA: Reverend Herbert Daughtry is the National Presiding Minister of the House of Lord Churches.
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