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Judge empathizes with Sean Bell protest and Al Sharpton

Well, not entirely.

Kimberly writes:

As you may recall, Al Sharpton was among civil rights leaders who, in May 2008, protested in NYC over the police shooting and killing of unarmed bridegroom Sean Bell.  The protest was successful in that it was big, non-violent, and had an impact on New York City traffic.

While most of the demonstrators had their charges dropped, Al Sharpton and a small group asked for a trial. They had their trial this week, and the judge sentenced them only to time served (the few hours they were in jail.) The judge also issued a statement of some empathy, though also with the twist that since they wanted to do this protest, they should not mind accepting the consequence of being found guilty.

Thoughts on the coverage of the Al Sharpton/Sean Bell demonstration trial:

It is so frustrating to me that the news dislikes Al Sharpton so much, and dislikes and disrespects protesters so much, that many media outlets used headlines which portrayed things in a negative light. Al Sharpton was a hero for helping people express outrage over the police killing of an unarmed civilian. Al Sharpton stood with Sean Bell’s fiance and the other two men who were victims of police brutality. But, the way the UPI story was written, many news organizations had the title: “Sharpton Convicted of Disorderly Conduct.” That was incredibly misleading for people who only read the headline. And, I think very unfair, and biased against protesters. Another news organization had the headline: “Sharpton found guilty.” Which, for people who did not remember the old news story, paints Sharpton in such a negative light. It is truly appalling that people would write news in that way. The Newsday headline, based on the AP story, was somewhat better, in that it recalled the reason for Sharpton’s trial: “Al Sharpton, others convicted in Sean Bell protests.”

Congratulations to Al Sharpton for standing up for justice, and standing by Nicole Paultre-Bell. Congratulations to Al Sharpton for doing the physical work of putting his own body in the way of the gears of the machines of injustice.

Two stories below. One, an excerpt from the Democracy Now! story of the time, to put this all in perspective. The other, the Newsday story.

(excerpt from) Democracy Now!
200 Arrested in Massive Show of Civil Disobedience Over Police Acquittals in Killing of Sean Bell

May 8 2008

AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York, more than 200 people have been arrested in a day of protest over the acquittal of three police officers in the killing of Sean Bell. The twenty-three-year-old Bell died in a hail of fifty police bullets on the morning of what would have been his wedding day in November of 2006. Bell was unarmed.>>>

Among those arrested were Sean Bell’s fiancee, Nicole Paultre-Bell; the two surviving shooting victims, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield; and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

(excerpt from Newsday/AP story)
Al Sharpton, others convicted in Sean Bell protests

October 9, 2008

Criminal Court Judge Larry Stephen issued the verdict, then sentenced the defendants to time already served – in Sharpton’s case, 5 1/2 hours – and ordered each to pay a court surcharge of $95.

“I am of course sympathetic to the underlying issues which gave rise to the protests and demonstrations on May 7,” Stephen said.

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