Chuck Bennett and Kavita Mokha, New York Post, April 29, 2008
Barack Obama made a call for nonviolence in the aftermath of the Sean Bell verdict—infuriating the Rev. Al Sharpton, who accused the presidential candidate of trying to “grandstand in front of white people,” sources told The Post.
During what a source described as a “heated” phone call yesterday, Sharpton told Obama he was disappointed with the Illinois senator’s words on Friday, when Obama said “resorting to violence to express displeasure” was “completely unacceptable and counterproductive.”
“[Obama] issues this statement and not a single rock had been thrown,” said a source. “How does the candidate of change ask people to accept a verdict that is unjust?”
The source said Sharpton had hoped Obama would “side with the Bell family” and not use it as an “opportunity to grandstand in front of white people.”
Hundreds of angry people marched through Harlem on Saturday after the Rev. Al Sharpton promised to “close this city down” to protest the acquittals of three police detectives in the 50-shot barrage that killed a groom on his wedding day and wounded two friends.
“We strategically know how to stop the city so people stand still and realize that you do not have the right to shoot down unarmed, innocent civilians,” Sharpton told an overflow crowd of several hundred people at his National Action Network office in the historically black Manhattan neighborhood. “This city is going to deal with the blood of Sean Bell.”
Sharpton was joined by the family of 23-year-old Sean Bell—a black man—and a friend of Bell who was wounded in the 2006 shooting outside a Queens strip club. Two of the three officers charged were also black.
The rally at Sharpton’s office was followed by a 20-block march down Malcolm X Boulevard and then across 125th Street, Harlem’s main business thoroughfare, where some bystanders yelled out “Kill the police!”
“Shut it down! Shut it down!” the crowd chanted, standing up and applauding wildly.
Sharpton didn’t say exactly how they would protest the acquittals of the officers who fired the 50 shots. He said Bell’s supporters could demonstrate all over the city, from Wall Street to the home of Justice Arthur Cooperman, who on Friday acquitted the three detectives after a nonjury trial.