Al Sharpton and 216 others arrested in Sean Bell protests
UPDATE: 12:16 PM EST - May 8
Al Sharpton and 216 others were arrested yesterday in the largest public protest against the acquittal of three detectives in the shooting death of Sean Bell. Carefully orchestrated demonstrations halted traffic at busy intersections in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The demonstrations, described by the Rev. Al. Sharpton as “pray-ins,” played out on a bright spring afternoon as boisterous displays of civil disobedience in which people signed up to be arrested, assuring organizers and lawyers that they were carrying proper identification to show to the police.
Once positioned at the intersections, demonstrators dropped to their knees or sat and prayed briefly before hundreds of police officers escorted them to buses and police vehicles.
The protests were staged at six locations in the city. In the largest one, about 400 people assembled about 4:30 on the Centre Street approach to the Brooklyn Bridge and blocked Brooklyn-bound traffic for more than an hour. About 60 people in that demonstration were arrested, including Mr. Sharpton and Nicole Paultre Bell, who was to have married Mr. Bell on the day he was killed in a hail of 50 bullets fired by the officers outside a nightclub in Jamaica, Queens, in 2006.
Demonstrators also stopped traffic at the Manhattan entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, where about 20 were arrested. They sat in front of cars waiting to come off the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, where 23 were arrested, and blocked ramps at the Triborough Bridge at 125th Street and Second Avenue, where about 40 were arrested.
UPDATE: 6:27PM EST
The Rev. Al Sharpton is among many of those who have been arrested at the Sean Bell demonstrations across New York City.
Bell's widow, and Guzman and Benefield—the two men shot with Bell in a hail of 50 NYPD bullets—were among the first people to be taken away by police after blocking traffic on Centre Street, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, just minutes before 5 p.m.
Hundreds of protesters watched from the sidewalks by City Hall and the municipal building at One Center Street chanting " “We are Sean Bell and “No justice No peace," as scores of demonstrators repeated the same phrases when police asked them to vacate the street and allow traffic to pass.
"If you refuse to leave you will be placed under arrested and charged with disorderly conduct," said Lt. Wolf of the NYPD to the protesters blocking traffic.
"We are Sean Bell," came the reply as the protesters were bound with plastic restraints and loaded aboard NYPD buses.
Protestors against the verdict in the Sean Bell case are marching in New York City right now. Several hundred people have shut down traffic at entrances to the Queensboro Bridge, the Triborough Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel as protests were coordinated against the three NY City police officers' acquittal in the shooting death of Sean Bell.
The protesters expressed outrage over a Queens judge’s decision on April 25 to acquit the three detectives — Michael Oliver, Gescard F. Isnora and Marc Cooper — over the November 2006 death of Mr. Bell, who died in a hail of police bullets outside a nightclub in Jamaica, Queens, hours before he was to have been married.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network coordinated the protests, which were to include five locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as protests in Chicago and Atlanta.
The largest protest site appeared to be outside the New York City police headquarters in Lower Manhattan, where hundreds of protesters began gathering around 3 p.m. Mr. Sharpton emerged around 4:15 p.m., joined by Mr. Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, as well as Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, two friends who were shot and injured along with Mr. Bell. Leading a large crowd, they gathered on a traffic island in Centre Street, in front of the city’s Municipal Building, and blocked the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. They sat down and prayed, blocking traffic, until the police began a mass arrest of protesters starting around 4:40 p.m. Police officers placed plastic “zip cuffs” on the wrists of the protesters, taking the men and women away separately.
Earlier in the afternoon, a smaller crowd of about protesters gathered on the East Side of Manhattan near the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge. Around 3:30 p.m. they stepped onto the lanes of the bridge, blocking traffic for about 30 minutes. The Rev. Dock Johnson, pastor of Community Baptist Church in South Ozone Park, Queens, kneeling with both arms extended and wearing a pin-striped suit, a leather cap and sunglasses, led the protesters, who sat down in the middle of the traffic lanes. After they resisted police orders to disperse, the protesters — including Mr. Johnson — were placed in plastic handcuffs and arrested.