Dec 11, 2006
Five cops fired fifty shots at three peaceable unarmed men outside a club in the Queens neighborhood of New York in the early morning hours of November 25. One of the men, Sean Bell, was killed and the two others seriously wounded. The three had attended a bachelor party for Bell, who was to have been married the next day. Their only crime was trying to get away from five men, roughly dressed, who threatened them with guns pulled.
The cops, who were undercover, claimed to be conducting a prostitution and drug sting at the club. Witnesses said the three men took them for robbers and tried to drive away. The cops rammed their car, jumped out of their own unmarked car and started firing. One of the police fired 31 shots, meaning he had to stop and reload in the middle of the shooting. The witnesses said the police never identified themselves until after the men had been shot down.
People from the community started protesting the shootings almost immediately. Many people noted the similarity between this incident and the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, another black man who was shot 41 times by four cops as he sat on his doorstep.
This shooting was so obviously vicious that even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had to say it was “excessive.” But he tried to smooth things over by claiming the shootings were not racially motivated since two of the cops were black, two were Hispanic and only one was white. He said, “The police officers were as diverse as the people in the car. I don’t think there was any evidence that race had anything to do with this.”
This is just a coverup for the cops.
In the first place, the cop who started it all, shooting 31 times, was white. But the bigger issue is not who did the shooting, but who was shot. What are the odds that a peaceable and unarmed white man and two friends celebrating his upcoming marriage would be gunned down in such a fashion?
Racism is not simply the result of the attitudes of individuals, but of the organization of the society and the way it functions. The automatic assumption that a young black man is dangerous and guilty until proven innocent is part of the everyday functioning of the New York City police, and behind them, a racist society. For the mayor to pretend that this shooting was not racist means more young black men will be gunned down by New York’s “finest” killers.