Revolution #128, May 1, 2008

NYC: Angry Response to “Not Guilty” Verdict for Cops in Sean Bell Case

“I thought at least one time in my life, justice would be served for excessive use of force by police officers, but it never happens. The system failed us.”

Barber in Jamaica, Queens, quoted on NY1 News.

As we go to press, angry response to the “not guilty” verdict in the case of the police who killed Sean Bell and wounded his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, is unfolding.

Inside the courtroom, the stunned disbelief after the judge declared all three cops in the Sean Bell case “not guilty” was broken by a woman asking, “Did he just say not guilty?” As Sean's family and supporters rushed from the courtroom in tears and rage, a collective wail of grief and shock arose from those who had been waiting outside.

Hundreds spilled into the street outside the courthouse, stopping traffic on the major thoroughfare of Queens Boulevard. Chants of “Murderers, murderers!” and “KKK!” dogged the representatives of the police unions as they gloated to the press. Later Friday hundreds more—students and young people of all nationalities, revolutionary communists, anti-police brutality activists, street youth, local residents and others—gathered outside the Queens District Attorney’s office, growing at times to nearly 1000 as they took to the streets and marched to the site of Sean’s murder, getting loud honks of approval from buses, cars and delivery trucks. Even after the official march ended at the site of Sean’s murder and as dark came on, people continued to stay on and march in the streets in defiance. The march made its way past the main boulevards to the projects, with a bitterly angry speak-out followed by a march and stand-off at the precinct. Throughout the night, Black youth from the neighborhood joined the march in waves. Anger and outrage were palpable in the content and tenor of chants and the defiant resolve to keep the march in the streets in the face of overwhelming police presence. People came out from the stores and on the stoops, some in pajamas and slippers, many joining the chanting and marching. Before it was over for the night, trash cans and newspaper boxes were flipped over all down the avenue.

Judge Cooperman justified his verdict Friday morning by saying that Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman's testimony was “inconsistent” and their credibility was “eviscerated” because of their demeanor—their refusal to swallow their anger at being treated on the stand as the criminals and not the victims. He said they were not credible because they had been arrested in the past, and he said Trent wasn't believable because he couldn't remember whether he was shot inside the car or as he was trying to run for his life!

“The verdict is not fair and I'm hurting inside and I don't see what the Judge sees in this case,” said Sean Bell’s uncle, Kenneth Shepard, to NY1 News. “These guys are guilty. You just don't go around killing people. When is it going to stop? When is it going to stop?”

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