For Immediate Release
March 15, 2007
Contact: Jonathan Adams, ARC, Tel: (646) 502-8843
National Leaders Assemble in New York City to Address Racial Justice
New York, NY—Tensions increased today after the grand jury in the Sean Bell case failed to decide whether to indict three NYPD officers. The undercover detectives unloaded 50 rounds into Bell’s car last November killing him and seriously injuring two others. Ahead of the verdict, new questions are being raised about the use of excessive force by the NYPD as national leaders gather in New York for a conference on racial justice.
"The significance of the Sean Bell case is that it’s just the latest incident in a long series of NYPD abuses. We can go back 4 years to Alberta Spruill, 8 years to Amadou Diallo, 10 years to Abner Luima, 15 years to Anthony Baez, 20 years to Michael Griffith, 25 years to Eleanor Bumpers and keep going. But every day, "on duty" police officers in New York City routinely violate and disrespect people of color,” offered lawyer Esmeralda Simmons, director of the Law and Social Justice project at Medger Evers College. “The continuum of police brutality indicates that there is actually an issue in our larger society that supports police violence against people of color. The issue is racism and its product is often racial violence. ”
Family and community supporters have joined the Bell family in a daily vigil at the Queens Supreme court, but a demonstration to follow the grand jury decision at Union Square is expected to draw a far larger crowd. The police department has reserved 1,700 additional officers to manage the projected response to the grand jury’s deliberations.
Just as tensions around the case reach their peak, civil rights, criminal justice and policy leaders plan to converge on New York for the Annual Facing Race conference next week. The national gathering, sponsored by the Applied Research Center and Center for the Humanities at CUNY, is bringing together more than 600 people to take up cases like Bell’s and to develop innovative racial justice strategies.
“Justice for Sean Bell is not just a concern for New Yorkers, it’s a call for racial justice that is heard nationwide,” said Rinku Sen, Executive Director of the Applied Research Center. “Yes, we want an indictment in the Bell case. But we also need real solutions to the persistent racism in policing, our public schools and the health system. For Bell’s supporters and Facing Race participants, racial justice is more than idea; it’s a commitment to change the rules so that privileges and punishments are not determined by the color of our skin.”
The grand jury is expected to rule in the Bell case this week.
Facing Race takes place March 22-24 at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City and features a keynote speech by award-winning novelist and social commentator Walter Mosley.
For more information: http://www.arc.org/content/view/487/111/
The Applied Research Center is a national policy institute advancing racial justice through research, advocacy and communications. It also publishes COLORLINES, the national news magazine on race and politics.