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Echoes of Diallo

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Recently, there was a shooting in New York, the kind of thing which exposes the racial divide in large cities.

Sean Bell, 23, was leaving a strip club around 4 AM, with two friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman.  They were confronted by undercover cops on a side street, and the three men were shot 50 times by police. The shooting was so wild that one round wound up in the local train station.  Two of the men, Benefield and Guzman have survived, Guzman with 11 rounds and 16 exit wounds, and Benefield with three wounds. He was released from the hospital Wednesday.

This shooting was the first in many years to involve killing an unarmed man, but the tension around it goes back many years.

In 1999, African immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by an undercover NYPD patrol. The then mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, defended the police recklessly, refusing to meet with black community leaders to the point that they had to get arrested in front of police headquarters, day after day, until Giuliani broke and met with them. He defused the crisis by asking for a blue ribbon panel. However, he tossed the report into the garbage, not interested in the conclusions.

The trial was moved from New York to Albany and the four officers charged were aquitted, by claiming a wallet could have held a gun.

While that may have ended the case, the bitterness from that decision has never left New York politics. It has colored every citywide election since then. It is the bitter subtext to every issue where race comes up.

Last year, two things came up where echoes of the Diallo case came up. First, mayoral candidate Freddie Ferrer described the Diallo murder, which is how the majority of New Yorkers consider it to this day, as a shooting. After that, he dropped 20 points in the polls and never recovered, even with the support of black politicians like Al Sharpton. No matter what they said, the offense was so deep and so clear that it killed his candidacy.

Then the transit worker strike at the end of last year. The racial divide in the city couldn't be sharper. Middle class whites cursed the transit workers and belittled their intelligence and ability. The idea that untrained workers could get people killed seemed not to register with people until they learned of the Marlybone St accident in 1918 when untrained workers killed commuters on a subway train.  But on the second day of the strike, with the papers attacking the union leadership in near racist terms, Mayor Bloomberg showed up with only white staffers and then called the transit workers thugs. When I heard it, my mouth fell open. He crossed a line he didn't even realize existed.

Thug is New York newspaperese for two kinds of people, mobsters and minority criminals. For him to call working people, largely minority, thugs was a major mistake. It was a grave offense and harked back to the worse days of Giuliani. People started to confront him in the street over the word. They knew what it meant and they didn't like it. But what had happened was that the strike was popular. Sixty percent of New Yorkers supported it. The harsh tone that the newspapers had taken was costing them readers. They had not realized that the city's demographics had changed and that the TWU's leader Roger Toussaint, had become a local hero. People thought they deserved a raise. Internal union politics has left the union without a contract, but the impact of the strike was to demonstrate that the balance of power in the city has changed.

With police shootings in New York, the police are quick to get out any arrests that the victims may have had, to "dirty" them up and protect the police.

In this case, they claimed first that there was an armed fourth man, then that the victims had drug arrests.

If you ever wonder why people reach out to Al Sharpton, that is why.

Without Sharpton and his allied lawyers, the police would dominate the public relations battle. He has access to the media and therefore can get the victims side out. Without that, the police would easily vilify the dead and wounded. The New York Police Department has an intimate relationship with the media, and any dirt they can find would surface, thus trying to explain away the shooting.

Now, here is a map of the shooting scene.

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The red line shows the path the Bell party took from the club to the car. The blue line shows the path of the two police cars shadowing them.  They follow them for nearly a block. Only when they reach the car do they react This is the position of the police cars, in blue and  Bell's car in red.

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The police quickly surrounded the car and then began firing.

What this shows is that the police didn't intercept the party before they got to the car, which could have allowed them to have three guns, if they were armed.

The tension of this shooting has dominated New York politics since the Thanksgiving weekend.

However, if you expected some statement from Hillary Clinton, you would be disappointed. Schumer had planned on attending the funeral, but reconsidered or was asked to reconsider. Sen. Clinton didn't plan to go. Nor has she had much to say about the shooting.

But she did have a pressing issue to discuss.

Clinton and ESRB Team Up http://psp.ign.com/articles/749/749807p1.html

A match made in videogame Heaven?

December 7, 2006 – In an image that few expected to see this holiday, two of the loudest advocates against violent videogames, Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, stood with ESRB President Patricia Vance, Best Buy President Brian Dunn and GameStop President Steve Morgan as partners. The unexpected alliance announced a new campaign aimed at educating parents about game ratings. "

We all share in the responsibility of making sure our children play age-appropriate video games, and I'm pleased that the ESRB and retailers are working together to educate parents about the video game ratings and make sure they are enforced," said Senator Clinton. "As we enter the holiday shopping season, it is important that parents have the information they need to make informed choices that are right for their families."

Television ads have been sent to 800 stations nationwide which are intended to encourage parents to monitor the games their children play. The ESRB also released a radio PSA campaign and is continuing its print ads that deliver the same message. "

I continue to be concerned about the impact on minors of playing violent video games intended for older players. Thus, I am very pleased that the ESRB and the retailers are taking these positive steps to reach out to parents to educate them about the rating system," said Senator Lieberman. "I have long said that the ESRB ratings are the most comprehensive in the media industry. There are many age-appropriate games that are clever and entertaining. Parents should understand and use the ratings to help them decide which video games to buy for their families." "

The ESRB ratings are a helpful guide for parents, and this PSA campaign is the latest of our efforts to educate parents about the rating system and why it is important for them to use it," said ESRB President Patricia Vance. "We're excited to have the support of Senators Clinton and Lieberman, Best Buy and GameStop in this significant initiative to help ensure that parents choose appropriate games for their children."

Real people are shot at 50 times, and Hillary Clinton is nowhere to be found.

Sprites are fragged and she can hold a press conference.

Says a lot about her priorities and who she serves.

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Steve Gilliard

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