December 5, 2006

Call For Killing Police Is Denounced By Mayor

Special to the Sun

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday condemned the signs flaunted over the weekend at the site of a memorial to a man killed by police that called for "Death to the Pigs Who Kill Our Kids," referring to them as "disgusting and disgraceful."

Commenting on the same day investigators spoke for the first time to two men who survived the shooting outside the Kalua Cabaret in Jamaica, Queens, the mayor stopped short of denouncing the leader of the demonstration Saturday at which the signs were raised, Malik Zulu Shabazz. Speaking to reporters in Florida, the mayor said: "Those kinds of thoughts and signs have no place in our society, no matter what happened Saturday morning a week ago."

A lawmaker who has criticized the November 25 shooting, City Council Member Charles Barron, shrugged off the signs and the chants of "Death to the pigs" and "Off the pigs" shouted by members of Mr. Shabazz's New Black Panthers Party."I don't care what signs were put up," he said. "Any sign they put up is fine by me. I think everybody in this town should come and demonstrate because this is reprehensible."

Mr. Barron refused to say whether he supported Mr. Shabazz. "It's not about him. It's about 50 bullets and some killer cops," he said.

The latest fallout came on a day when shooting victim Sean Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre, appeared for the first time on television, speaking on CNN's "Larry King Live." Appearing calm, she called the shooting of Bell, 23, "excessive," but said she did not blame the entire police department, just the "individual who made this happen."

Asked if she felt angry, she said, "I'm really not angry. I'm more just trying to be strong.… Me and my family, we want justice. That's what we're praying for."

Also appearing on the show was the Reverend Al Sharpton, who said community leaders would meet tonight to discuss a pattern of police aggression across the country, including Bell's death. "Excessive force and deadly force must be looked at nationally and locally," he said.

Earlier in the day, a number of people who are close to the Bell family said they did not see the "death to the pigs" posters. However, the pastor of Community Church of Christ in Jamaica, Bishop Lester Williams, who has appeared publicly with the family, said he found them troubling. "Of course we cannot suppress or legislate what people do," he said. However, "I don't condone violence, I'm sorry. All that's going to do is make more."

Reached by telephone, Rev. Sharpton also distanced himself from this past weekend's protest, saying he attended Bell's funeral and then left town. "I had nothing to do with the demonstration," he said. He said he did not see the "death to the pigs" signs and refused to comment on them.

A spokesman for the New Black Panther Party defended the "death to the pigs" slogans yesterday. "It's just as disgusting to pull up and get out your gun and fire off 31 rounds," the group's national youth minister, Divine Allah, said. According to Mr. Allah, who said the group organized the demonstration because "we believe we have to take a stand," the signs were inspired by individual protesters. "Most of the signs that were out there, this is what the community feels in their heart," he said.

According to Mr. Allah, the New Black Panthers plan to demonstrate again at the site of the shooting on December 9, when they will hold a simultaneous boycott of non-black business in Harlem.

As activists gathered yesterday outside police headquarters in Lower Manhattan to announce a demonstration against police aggression scheduled for Wednesday, which Mr. Shabazz is not planning to attend, organizers emphasized that the rally would be focused on grassroots activism. "Sean Bell's death is really a logical outcome of the policy we originally called this demonstration for," Roger Wareham, a human rights attorney associated with the December 12th Movement, which is organizing the event, said.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Queens district attorney's office spoke for the first time yesterday with the two surviving shooting victims, Joseph Guzman, 31, and Trent Benefield, 23. A source close to the investigation said two investigators interviewed them at Mary Immaculate Hospital for several hours yesterday morning.

Afterward, one of the lawyers representing the shooting victims, Sanford Rubenstein, said his clients said there was no fourth man in the car with them, and said that neither the undercover detective nor the four other officers who shot at the car identified themselves as police when they opened fire. Police have said they believe there was a fourth man in or near the car who escaped on foot, possibly with a gun.

Also yesterday, union leaders representing the officers met with the district attorney, Richard Brown, urging him to be impartial in his investigation. "Fiction on the street shouldn't become fact in the courtroom," the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, said after the meeting.

The president of the Detectives Endowment Association, Michael Palladino, who also met with Mr. Brown, said the district attorney did not say when a grand jury would be convened. However, Mr. Palladino said he thought the investigation would be even-handed. "At this point, I'm not concerned any longer with the timeframe, I'm just concerned with a thorough and fair investigation," he said.