I don’t want to detract from the Seal Press debate, but I guess we’ll just have lots of things to discuss this weekend. Just saw this: the officers who shot Sean Bell and his friends more than 50 times have been acquitted.
It was delivered in a packed courtroom and was heard by, among others, the slain man’s parents and his fiancée. Mr. Bell’s family sat silently as Justice Cooperman spoke from the bench. Behind them, a woman was heard to ask, “Did he just say, ‘Not guilty?’ ”
Yeah. That was pretty much my reaction when I heard. What kills me is this part, though:
The acquittals do not necessarily mean the officers’ legal battles are over. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the three men could still face disciplinary action from the Police Department, and that he had been asked to wait on any internal measures until the United States attorney’s office determines whether or not it would pursue federal charges against them.
I’ve been following the Sean Bell shooting coverage for awhile now, and I’ve seen this language used in a number of news articles — this weird, almost anxious insistence that “even if” the officers aren’t convicted, that they’ll still Suffer, Suffer Horribly via lawsuits or some other means. I actually started noticing it several weeks ago, long before the verdict, almost as an attempt to appease the anger they knew was coming. I’ll gripe about the media bias reflected in these news agencies making excuses for murderers some other time, because I have another point.
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t fucking matter whether the officers spend the rest of their lives in debt up to their eyeballs, or whether the feds prosecute them as a consolation prize. What matters here — what we must never forget it — is that a young man is dead, and he shouldn’t be. He did not die in a vacuum. He didn’t suddenly trip and fall on 50+ bullets. The cops didn’t just randomly start shooting at anybody. They shot at three young black men because they assumed, without any proof to the contrary, that they were dangerous.
This is called racial profiling. It’s also called murder — except, apparently, in the state of New York. And what this says to me is that even if the feds convict these officers, Sean Bell’s own community does not value his life. The officers who were supposed to protect him — also members of that community — have now been given carte blanche to kill more people for the same racist reason. And every dark-skinned person in the state of New York now gets to feel just a little less safe.
Again. Because damn if this shit doesn’t seem to happen every other week.
I’m very, very angry right now. If there are any protests being planned about this, I’m there. But until then I need a safe outlet for my anger, and I’ve found this as one possibility: the ACLU’s campaign against racial profiling. I don’t like everything the ACLU does, but I respect them for actively pursuing equal justice for all. I think I’ll send them a donation today. Won’t do the Bell family any good, or give those officers the punishment they deserve for taking a life. Won’t even make me feel much better. But it’s something.