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Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Notes From the Middle of Another March for Justice 

    NEW YORK, Dec. 16 -- The word filtering throughout the march for justice for the slain and unarmed Sean Bell and his friends wounded Nov. 25 in Queens by a blitzkrieg of 50 NYPD bullets was that there were 40,000 protesters who had taken to the streets of Manhattan this bright and sunny afternoon. No one seemed to be quite sure who had calculated that figure or how accurate it was, but the precise number was of small consequence.

    On a Saturday afternoon in a season when most busy New Yorkers try to cram in some shopping because, after all, Santa Claus, Macy's, and all those cheery ads in the newspapers and on TV tell us to do so, block after block of Fifth Avenue was filled by an orderly but angry crowd there for one thing: justice.

    This was billed as being a silent march, but how are you going to keep everyone quiet in response to the outrageous and still little-explained events which led to the slaying of the 23-year-old African-American working class man Sean Bell right after his bachelor party and hours before he was supposed to have been married? The main organizers, politicians, and other big shots stood at the front, along with shooting victim Trent Benefield, still in a wheelchair, and Nicole Paultre Bell, Sean's fiancée who was to have married him later that fateful day and has since taken his name.

    The rest of us, needing little guidance, dutifully lined up around 59th Street and Fifth Avenue and then marched down to 34th Street, passing by numerous swanky shops which few of our kind patronize anyway. There were pre-printed signs handed out calling to "improve police-community relations", although one woman near me tore off the bottom of it so it just read "improve police" since, she said, they, and not the community, were the problem.

    The marchers were predominantly African-American, of all ages, with younger people new to hitting the pavement alongside veterans of many -- too many -- such battles. This was also a quite diverse group, including whites, Latinos, Asians, and no doubt many other nationalities. There was a high percentage of women, many of whom had to be mothers.

    Red, black, and green Black liberation flags were proudly displayed throughout. Many union members and activists also dotted the crowd, although there appeared to be a paucity of visible union banners. While an array of banners and signs were carried, including some from the usual political sects, several marchers had hand-written, homemade signs. The most poignant one I saw, from a group called the October 22 Coalition (http://october22.org/), was a banner which showed photos and names of dozens of the people shot and killed by the NYPD in recent years.

    The newest chant had the marchers count from one to fifty, signifying the number of shots fired upon the three unarmed men in the vehicle the NYPD officers had attacked. There was, of course, "No justice, no peace", and a slew of old standards culled from many struggles around the world, including the optimistic "The people united will never be defeated".

    The atmosphere among the demonstrators was typified by a little episode I saw midway through the march. After it had begun proceeding down Fifth Avenue, a 20-something looking man arrived for the event and saw someone he knew. He was outside the police barricades lining the street. He then hopped over a barricade, shook his friend's hand, and then, after a pause, shook the hands of a few more people next to him, all previously total strangers, including myself. We were there for the same thing, and that was what mattered.

    Despite the tragedy which brought us together, if even for just one Saturday afternoon, the camaraderie among the marchers was reflected in the handshakes, hugs, and language used among us -- brother and sister, sans the corporate-sponsored negativity so prevalent today.

    On the other side, many of the uniformed cops separating the marchers and the passersby on the sidewalks stood grim-faced. Were they fearful, or reflective about what had happened, too aware that they could have just as easily been in the center of such a situation? Or were some guilty about what they might have thought or even done in similar circumstances?

    Others cops stood smirking, with unrepentant, wise guy looks of condescension, defiance, and barbarism. Improve cops, yes, but fire some of them, too.

    Without a podium jammed with speakers droning on either at the start or end of this march, the marshals thanked us and told us to disperse when we arrived near 34th Street and 7th Avenue, not far from a Snoopy display soliciting kids to drag their parents into the big store. Few if any of the marchers did, as they and we blended back into the New York crowd, heading to the buses and subways which brought us to Fifth Avenue.

    It was angry and pointed, but peaceful and orderly. Neither the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor the NYPD have thus far given any indication that they will behave in such a peaceful and orderly manner. So many will be back, perhaps less patient, as that list of lives, especially of Black men, needlessly lost continues to grow, and the excuses, stonewalling, and lies continue to mount.

    And what was this police action that led to this tragedy for, again? According to news reports, it was to catch hookers at the Kalua strip club in Queens, which the police even failed to do before shooting Sean Bell. They were sent supposedly to protect the morals and decency of society, as determined, of course, by the moral police who hire these armed police to enforce their codes to protect us from ourselves.

    Haitian-American security guard Patrick Dorismond was killed in 2000 after leaving a Manhattan bar and refusing to engage in a drug deal with an undercover cop trying to entrap potential marijuana buyers. An altercation ensued which led to the unarmed Dorismond being shot and killed by a cop.

    So which is worse, the so-called vice or the war on vice?

    How many more such tragedies must we endure before that question is brought to the fore?

    Probably, sorrowfully, many, many more, which is why there will be more such marches, wherever and whenever they are necessary.

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    Comments:
    Sadly as long as cops know that they can get away when they cross the line and commit crimes and are backed up by their departments, superiors and politicians such tragedies will happen again and again.
    We as citizens need to step up and demand that the law-enforcement agency, the justice and penal system will be reformed because this is dearly needed! Police brutality is just the expression of this rotten system, we need to monitor police actions much more that's why I embrace groups like Copwatch. And like you wrote in your notes, we need to fire cops who have no business wearing a badge and a gun, trigger-happy cowboys who misuse their authority.
    Sadly we lack independent, unbiased and progressive media and as long as the majority of the people still join in the silly "get tough on crime" chants or are led to believe that the War on Drugs (which is in fact a war against the users/citizens) with all the repression and outrageous laws is necessary, till then change will hardly come by.
    Thanks so much for this article and your thoughts Eddie. I love your NHB show and listen to every episode. Not only because you have such a vast knowledge of the sport and were actively involved since the mid-nineties but also because your a very intelligent and critical radio host who's not afraid to speak his mind and ask inconvenient questions.
    I think that's one of your main qualities and I do admire you for that Eddie. I know many other MMA radio shows and they hardly ever critisize promotions or challenge fighters or guests with serious questions; in fact most of them are arse-lickers when it comes to interviewing fighters.
    Your show is by far the best MMA radio show out there and I enjoy it very much, you just know what you get with Eddie Goldman: Quality!
    Please keep up the good work, your show rocks and thanks for this article.
     
    Post a Comment

    1 Comments:

    Sadly as long as cops know that they can get away when they cross the line and commit crimes and are backed up by their departments, superiors and politicians such tragedies will happen again and again.
    We as citizens need to step up and demand that the law-enforcement agency, the justice and penal system will be reformed because this is dearly needed! Police brutality is just the expression of this rotten system, we need to monitor police actions much more that's why I embrace groups like Copwatch. And like you wrote in your notes, we need to fire cops who have no business wearing a badge and a gun, trigger-happy cowboys who misuse their authority.
    Sadly we lack independent, unbiased and progressive media and as long as the majority of the people still join in the silly "get tough on crime" chants or are led to believe that the War on Drugs (which is in fact a war against the users/citizens) with all the repression and outrageous laws is necessary, till then change will hardly come by.
    Thanks so much for this article and your thoughts Eddie. I love your NHB show and listen to every episode. Not only because you have such a vast knowledge of the sport and were actively involved since the mid-nineties but also because your a very intelligent and critical radio host who's not afraid to speak his mind and ask inconvenient questions.
    I think that's one of your main qualities and I do admire you for that Eddie. I know many other MMA radio shows and they hardly ever critisize promotions or challenge fighters or guests with serious questions; in fact most of them are arse-lickers when it comes to interviewing fighters.
    Your show is by far the best MMA radio show out there and I enjoy it very much, you just know what you get with Eddie Goldman: Quality!
    Please keep up the good work, your show rocks and thanks for this article.

    By Blogger Henry, at 6:36 AM  

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