Spitting On Diallo's Grave?

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As a Bronx born  and raised Puerto Rican I have been trying to find a reason to  vote for New York City Mayoral hopeful Fernando Ferrer.

When my favorite candidate for mayor Councilman Charles Barron dropped out, I recalled when Freddy Ferrer stood at One Police Plaza and was arrested along with over 1,000 community activists and elected officials to ensure that the murder of Amadou Diallo would not go unpunished. It  came as a shock to me when Ferrer stated that he believed that the murder of Diallo was not a crime-- the former Bronx borough president told police sergeants that he feels the  controversial shooting was not a criminal act. Responding to a Sergeant in the audience at a meeting who asked if he believed the shooting was a "crime or a tragic accident" Ferrer said: "I don't believe  it was a crime. Do I believe there was an attempt by many, in a lot of different places, to  over-indict? Sure."

Well Mr. Ferrer now you have given me a reason to not vote for you. The death of Diallo still lingers in the streets of New York. On the night of Feb 4th, 1999, four NYPD police officers, Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll --both still work for the police department-- and Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy --currently with the New York City fire department--shot the unarmed Diallo,  41 times; 19 bullets shattered his  body. These four officers, who still work for the city of New York, not only were acquitted on all 7 counts they each  faced, they were tried in a different venue; although the crime was committed in the Bronx a predominately Black and Latino borough,  the trial took place in Albany, NY, a predominately white city.

In the last 10 years much of the work around issues of police brutality has been spearheaded by the  Coalition Against Police Brutality, compromised of five organizations, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, The Audre Lorde  Project, CAAAV -Organizing Asian  Communities, Sista II Sista  and the Justice Committee (National Congress of Puerto Rican  Rights).  Richie Perez, a mentor and leader of CAP-B who passed away last year,  would be reminding us to not allow elected officials to play politics with our very lives.

The Ferrer campaign released a statement after his recent Diallo comments: "This terrible tragedy divided our city  and took an innocent life. I submitted myself to voluntary arrest in  protest." Well Mr. Ferrer, we  do not have to accept a violation of ones human rights. In fact we cannot afford to, with the upcoming release of Francis Livoti --the police officer who killed Anthony Baez with a chokehold-- scheduled for Sunday April 17, the trial of Osumane  Zongo which ended in a mistrial and the non-indictment of Officer Richard Neri, who shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury, we as a community can no longer  accept the behavior of NYPD to go unchecked. Nor can we allow politicians to play political dodgeball with the lives of Black and Latino people.

As progressive Black and Latino/as folks, we cannot let Mr. Ferrer go unchallenged, if he chooses to change his stance now because it benefits  him politically--we can choose not to support his bid for mayor. If Ferrer is trying to pander to the police union at our expense then he is not the person to run this city. Either Ferrer comes out and call a crime a crime, or he should be very wary on election day. He can count on one less constituent voting for him on election day 2005.

Rosa Clemente is a journalist with WBAI, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and a co-founder of  the National Hip Hop Political Convention.

She can be  reached at
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