McCain Makes Inroads with Black Voters While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duke it out for the Democratic presidential nomination, presumptive Republican candidate John McCain is making an appeal to black voters across the country. Plus, New York City braces for a verdict in the Sean Bell case. It's all on today's reporters' roundtable.
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McCain Makes Inroads with Black Voters

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McCain Makes Inroads with Black Voters

McCain Makes Inroads with Black Voters

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That was NPR correspondent Robert Smith from our New York Bureau, and we are going to continue our coverage of the Sean Bell verdict on today's Reporters Round Table. We will also look take a look at the latest from Zimbabwe and Republican nominee John McCain is on the trail to woo black folks. For more on this week's news, we have radio host Cynthia Pryor Hardy, her talk show, "On Point With Cynthia", airs from Columbia, South Carolina. Also Sheryl McCarthy, she's a columnist for Newsday, a New York newspaper. Welcome ladies.

Ms. CYNTHIA PRYOR HARDY (Radio Host, On Point With Cynthia): Thank you.

Ms. SHERYL MCCARTHY (Columnist, Newsday): Thank you!

CHIDEYA: So, we just heard from NPR's Robert Smith in New York. Sheryl McCarthy you're with Newsday. What do you feel the mood of the city is right now?

Ms. MCCARTHY: Well, you know, I thought that the - while, it's a very sad day. I thought that the family's, the Sean Bell family's response to the verdict, although, this must have been very painful for them, very disappointing for them, the fact that they walk passed the cameras, did not take this opportunity to make any kind of angry statement or try to fire up the crowd, just went right past the reporters and went out to Sean Bell's gravesite, and it was a very eloquent statement about their feeling about this verdict and about what happened to Sean Bell.

CHIDEYA: Well, let's listen to Leroy Gadsden of the New York State NAACP. He spoke outside of the courthouse after the verdict was announced.

Mr. LEROY GADSDEN (New York State NAACP): This case was not about justice. This case is about the police officer having the right to act above the law. If the law was in effect here, the judge had followed the law, truly, these officers would have been found guilty.

CHIDEYA: Cynthia, do you get a sense that protest from the NAACP or from other sources will cause a ripple effect, not just in New York, but that this case would be talked about in other parts of the country?

Ms. PRYOR HARDY: Thank you. I am hopeful that that will be the case, but I'm more hopeful that the leadership will come from within the community. It is very sad because people had expected a different verdict today. What's happening across the country in terms of police brutality is well documented and I think people feel as if - if I see it, why you don't, and what happens is a resentment breathes within our communities. And it appears that there is an all out assault on certain races or genders in our society, and certainly black men do often get the short end of the stick. I hear the argument to the contrary all the time, but then something like this with Sean Bell occurs and it makes the point. The correspondent, a few minutes ago, pointed to the fact that even the mayor, right after this occurred, indicated that it appeared to be excessive force and that it seems unacceptable and inexplicable. But today, those seem like empty words certainly to the family and to people across the country paying attention to this case.

CHIDEYA: I also want to also play a clip from a spokesperson Patrick Lynch of the New York City Patrolman Benevolent Association.

Mr. PATRICK LYNCH (Spokesperson): This sends a message to New York City Police officers that when you are in that position, when you are in front of a court house, when you are in front of that court bench, that you will get fairness and that is what New York City Police officers need each and every day. Every time a police officer goes on the street there is never a script. We have to deal with circumstances as they come. This was a tragedy with a death. It's a tragedy for all police officers that have to live with the difficult job but nonetheless we're grateful for this outcome.

CHIDEYA: So, again NPR's Robert Smith brought up the fact that it is a different environment in New York now compared to say the Giuliani administration. Nonetheless, Sheryl, this must be a moment when there is an increase in tension between the New York City police and some of the communities of color. How do you see things playing out whether it's mediation from the mayor or mediation of the situation by the police officers?

Ms. MCCARTHY: Well, you know, this goes back to something that Robert said, you know, quoting Judge Cooperman as saying, carelessness is not a crime. And when you have cases like this, and we've seen them before, the cops will say, you know, well, we were - we have to act on the spur of the moment and we were feared for our life. But, you know, carelessness is a crime when you are cop carrying a gun and you start shooting at people. You start firing (unintelligible) and people start dying and get seriously injured.

And, you know, the sad thing is that we continue to have - I think every case has to be judged on its own particular set of facts, but when you continue having these situations where you have black men who are found not to be doing anything illegal, not to have a weapon, and the cops fear them and fear their lives are in danger, generally I think because they are black men and cops - you have cops who fear black men and just suddenly think they are in danger because they see black men and these people who are not doing anything illegal wind up dead. That is a serious problem. There's going to be repercussions, you're going to almost definitely have some kind of civil judgment, the city, the taxpayers are going to wind up paying millions of dollars, probably, to the Sean Bell family and to the - his two friends who were injured and that's probably appropriate…yes?

CHIDEYA: Let me get Cynthia in here, are there any echoes of this case in something that might have happened in South Carolina or your region?

Ms. PRYOR HARDY: Oh, absolutely. In the last few weeks the South Carolina Department of Public Safety has been all the over the media, all this tapes have been released. Their car cams have recorded mistreatment of African-Americans, of women. You've seen them using their cars to run over suspects in an effort to stop them. And so, here in our state the NAACP and the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus has worked - they have work together with the governor of the state to try to bring about some revolution to some of the things that are occurring there. But I think what it points to is police brutality and excessive force, misconduct all over the United States.

CHIDEYA: I'm going to have to jump in. And I want both of you to hang tight with us for a few minutes, we are going to return with our reporter's round table after a break. And just ahead some tips on saving your home if you are at risk of foreclosure. Plus, Malcolm Shabazz was a young boy when he set a fire that killed his grandmother. His grandmother was Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's widow and in a few minutes we're going to talk to a reporter about the ways that that 23-year-old is trying to rebuild his life.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: This is News and Notes, I'm Farai Chideya. We're continuing our conversation on our reporter's round table. We have radio host Cynthia Pryor Hardy. Her show "On Point with Cynthia" airs from Columbia, South Carolina. Plus Newsday columnist Sheryl McCarthy. Hi folks. And we're just going to jump right back into it with a different topic. International news, yesterday the U.S. officially got involved with the Zimbabwe election situation. Voting took place over a month ago but President Robert Mugabe's government never released the votes and the results of the votes and now the U.S. is declaring that Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidency. Now, some say the U.S. didn't do enough when the election problems first started and Cynthia when it comes to situations like this, where there have been historic tensions between Zimbabwe and the U.S., should the U.S. get involved, and if so, how?

Ms. PRYOR HARDY: Well, you know, I think certainly the United States, as other powerful nations, have a responsibility to the rest of the world when they think they see injustices particularly injustices that relate to human injustices. We see so much going on there in terms of so many people hungry, so many people homeless, and so many people being inflicted actually themselves by all of the confusion that's going on there. However, when I talked to my friends from that region, they say that the United State should not. They indicate that while the United States may feel as if it's big brother coming to the rescue, western influence is perhaps the biggest problem that countries like Zimbabwe face.

CHIDEYA: Sheryl, when you are looking at the situation - we're hearing now about violence, Zimbabwe police have raided the headquarters of the opposition and of independent election observers. They're taking away voting materials, reportedly police have also arrested and beaten hundreds of people. Now, in addition to that, China sent a shipment of weapons to Zimbabwe but for nearly a week the ship was detained in different ports in Africa. So, it appears the ship's on its way back to China due to this boycott. When you look at the violence on the ground but the fact that arms were not able to reach the country, is it at least the glass half full?

Ms. MCCARTHY: Well, I think it's certainly appropriate for the - I don't know if it's half full or half empty, I think it's a very bad situation and that Mr. Mugabe who's headed the country for 28 years cannot step aside and let somebody else run it for a change, but I do think it's appropriate for the United States certainly to express its deep dissatisfaction, its criticism of what President Mugabe's refusal to release the results of the election, what his party is doing against the opposition party, and I think it would be appropriate certainly to have some kind of boycott to say that this denial of human rights is really something that we don't want to support and that we are really strongly against.

CHIDEYA: I'm going to move on to yet another topic because it's all fast-paced on this Friday. Cynthia, Republican nominee John McCain is on a week long tour, often being called the poverty tour, he is taking time trying to reach out to black voters. In some he praised U.S. representative John Lewis who suffered serious injuries during Civil Rights Movement on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Do you think this is going to pan out for McCain in terms of having reach to non-traditional Republican voters, let us just put it that way.

Ms. PRYOR HARDY: Well, one thing's for certain, McCain's got a lot of time to kill, and I don't know that it's not a good use of time for him to go on to African-American communities and to hear with people are thinking and what people are feeling. I can't imagine people not appreciating, that especially if he goes to it with a degree of sincerity. I think people want to be reached out to. When it comes to it, yeah, people might say, well, you know McCain's in the African-American communities and you wouldn't normally find them there. When it comes down to it, the candidates that are coming to our communities, whether it's Clinton or Obama, we normally don't see them either. So, I think it's not a bad thing for him to reach to African-American people and to reach out to people and hear what they are thinking and feeling.

CHIDEYA: Sheryl, yesterday McCain toured the Ninth Ward in New Orleans criticizing the Bush administration about its slow response after Katrina. He called that slow reaction, terrible and disgraceful. Now, Bush and McCain have had a long, tense history at points. They were once competitors for the presidential nomination. Do you think now that with McCain going into the election being the candidate, getting the president's endorsement, they're going to put those issues behind them and work as a team maybe even the current president going on the stump for McCain?

Ms. MCCARTHY: Oh, I definitely do, you know, because the Republicans want to win again and they're going to have to pull together in this election. So, I do think that they're going to put some of that behind them and you're going to see Bush out there for McCain. But you just - following up on what Cynthia said, I think it is, you know McCain has a terrible record both for the ACLU, the NAACP and on civil rights issues, and it's amusing to see him down they're buying quilt from the black women in G's band and going to Selma where I gather most of the people who turned out were white and it's probably not going to pan out in terms in votes from black people, but it's good that he is doing that, that he is getting exposed at this late date to what black communities and poor communities of what their concerns are because there is a 50-50 chance that he maybe our president and so it's very important for him to be exposed to that.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, Sheryl and Cynthia we got to wrap it up here, thanks so much.

Ms. PRYOR HARDY: Thank you too.

Ms. MCCARTHY: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Sheryl McCarthy is a columnist for Newsday. She joined us from our studios in New York City. And Cynthia Pryor Hardy is the host of radion talk show "On Point with Cynthia."

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