Barron Attacks Rev. Sharpton

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In a sharp division on the eve of primary election day in New York, Councilmember Charles Barron sharply denounced Rev. Al Sharpton’s endorsement of Fernando Ferrer. Barron also criticized Sharpton for “slandering� mayoral candidate borough President C. Virginia Fields by saying she didn’t march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the police murder of Amadou Diallo.

Separately, Sharpton defended himself in an interview with The Black Star and said Fields couldn’t be compared to Barron. He said he would have backed Barron had the councilmember remained in the race.

A host of activists, including Nellie Bailey, Eddie Ellis, Stan Kinard, Viola Plummer, Larry Holmes, and Abdul Hack joined Barron on the steps of City Hall yesterday to castigate Sharpton not so much for endorsing Ferrer over Fields, but for claiming that she did not march across the Brooklyn Bridge and support other efforts in the wake of the police killing of Amadou Diallo in February 1999.

Barron slammed Sharpton’s endorsement announcement, when he appeared on Imhotep Gary Byrd’s Sunday morning ‘Express Yourself’ talk show on WBLS radio. Sharpton used his own ‘Sharptalk’ show and later ‘Open
Line’ on Kiss to vigorously defend his position. Sharpton endorsed Ferrer within days of today’s primary. Barron slammed what he called Sharpton’s last minute "antics."

Yet, Sharpton told this reporter, that as he campaigned with city council candidate Diane Mealy in Brownsville, every one was telling him that they supported his decision. This newspaper asked him if he thought Fields would not make a better mayor than Ferrer? "As good in some cases, better in others,� he replied. "I’ve got one major issue with Freddie, but several with Virginia, including the removal of the vendors from 125th Street; fighting against Khallid Muhammad and the Million Youth March and her embracing Giuliani as we fought him over police brutality and Diallo.� He added: “But, I still gave her the benefit of the doubt until I saw that she was not running a credible campaign, and we were in danger of a run off with Weiner," referring to Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Sharpton said that he hoped that there would not be a run off. Had Fields numbers been stronger, he said he would have supported her, and in the early days, he had wanted Fields and Ferrer to "fight it out"politically, since the numbers were more liquid. If there was looking like a run-off between Fields and Weiner, he said he would have supported Fields. "If it didn’t work we’d have gone with the second best thing,� he said, meaning Ferrer.

Sharpton told Black Star News that he remains upset about Ferrer’s comments that the police 41-shot barrage which killed an unarmed Amadou Diallo – was not a crime. But, he lauded Ferrer for going to jail on the protest arrests, along with him and hundreds of others. Fields, he said, did not demonstrate at One Police Plaza or march across the Brooklyn Bridge during an anti-police brutality rally. Sharpton said that he rejects the attempt by activists to make Fields out to be the "embodiment of Black self-empowerment.� He added: “You can’t act like Virginia is Barron.�

However, bellowing at the press conference yesterday, Barron begged to Differ: "C. Virginia Fields did march across the Brooklyn Bridge. She was there.  You need to check your records, Al; and she was at Local 1199 around the meeting concerning Amadou Diallo. Check your records.

She wrote a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno asking for a federal indictment in the case.  She also visited the site four days later with Attorney. Johnnie Cochran."

Barron, who himself is running for re-election today in East New York, accused Sharpton of slandering Fields.  "You can go on and support Freddie all you want, but we will not accept the disrespect of a Black woman who did nothing but respect our outrage and our movement. Just because Freddie flip-flopped, don’t get mad at Virginia. She said it was a crime then, she said it was a crime then." He added that the minister is abandoning, "the only Black woman in this race just so you can support Freddy Ferrer."

Sharpton told the Black Star News that he made his endorsement after a meeting with a range of community leaders and elected officials including State Senator David Paterson and Congressman Jose Serrano. It was not even close, Sharpton said – it was 29-1 in favor of Ferrer, the one being an abstention. Barron suggested that the Black community should go out to vote like never before, so November gives the city the first "Madam Mayor." Barron concluded, "Say no to Sharpton, say no to all the media critics; there have been 108 mayors in this city, 107 were white men, one was a Black man. Now you have C. Virginia Fields, a sister who was in the city council eight years, stood up against Giuliani, was borough president for eight years – she has an impeccable record."

On the eve of a primary, the Black community is in political disarray, said brilliant legal mind Alton Maddox yesterday. "The Black community is irreparably divided and Black leaders are engaged in political sniping even though no Black agenda is in existence."

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