WASHINGTON — Demonstrators outside the Justice Department on Nov. 16 and at a concert the next day protested the Bush administration’s refusal to crack down on hate crimes and racist police brutality sweeping the nation.
The March for Justice was sponsored by the National Action Network and other civil rights organizations. The families of Sean Bell, shot to death by New York police, and Mychal Bell, now serving an 18-month prison term in Louisiana, attended the protest.
Mychal Bell, 17, is the first of the Jena Six tried by an all-white jury. He is back in jail even though a Louisiana appeals court overturned his conviction on aggravated battery charges stemming from a fistfight last Dec. 4.
A thousand protesters gathered Nov. 17 for a “Stop Hate Crimes and Police Brutality” concert sponsored by the Hip Hop Caucus. The crowd fell silent as three parents of African American youth shot to death by New York police officers demanded action to halt the plague of police shootings.
Nicholas Heyward Sr., whose son was shot to death by New York police on Sept. 27, 1994, is trying to get the case reopened. Heyward said he sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding an investigation of the police shooting of his son. “They sent me a six-line letter in reply. They said the U.S. attorney for New York reviewed the case and found the police officers’ action justifiable. Five other parents in New York got the same identical letter, word for word, about the police shooting of their children. I would describe this as an epidemic of police violence sweeping this country and the Justice Department is doing nothing to investigate it.
“I would like to see the youth organize themselves. We need to organize,” he said.
Juanita Young told the crowd her son Malcolm Ferguson, 23, was shot to death by a police officer in the Bronx, March 1, 2000. “I took the case to court and the cop admitted he killed my son for nothing,” Young told the World. A jury awarded her $10.5 million, which the NYPD is appealing.
“The Justice Department only protects the higher-ups. It doesn’t protect people in the South Bronx or down in Louisiana,” she told the World. “Why are they going after those six boys? With all these noose hangings, the Justice Department is just letting it get out of control. We pay our taxes for the police to protect us, not murder our children. They think they are above the law.”