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Sharpton Arrested During Pray-Ins In Support Of Sean Bell

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TWC News: Sharpton Arrested During Pray-Ins In Support Of Sean Bell
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The Reverend Al Sharpton and Sean Bell's fiancŽe were arrested along with about 200 protesters shortly after 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, as they blocked traffic on Park Row by the entry of the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan.

According to police authorities, the 200 arrests were part of a coordinated campaign organized by Sharpton to urge federal authorities to investigate Bell's shooting by detectives more than two years ago.

Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, who were injured during that shooting, joined Sharpton and Bell's fiancŽe, Nicole Paultre Bell, lined up and peacefully put their hands behind their backs as police put plastic handcuffs on them. Sharpton and Paultre Bell were placed in a police vehicle.

Late Wednesday night, some demonstrators told NY1 that the protests would be weekly, but there was no official confirmation of such strategies.

On Wednesday, protesters started to gather for pray-ins and acts of civil disobedience at 3 p.m. at several locations around the city. The gathering areas are all located near key transportation points, including the Triborough and Brooklyn Bridges, and the Midtown and Holland Tunnels.

The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, and no injuries resulted. Protesters gathered with the intention of forcing arrests to draw attention to what they consider a miscarriage of justice in the Bell trial.

“If the guilty are not going to be arrested, then the innocent will be, and they will continue to be until these officers are prosecuted under the law,” said Michael Hardy, attorney for the shooting victims, echoing words Sharpton said on Saturday.

"I appreciate them," said Bell's mother, Valerie Bell. "That they're really concerned, for it could have been them. It could have been their child."

Late Wednesday night, as the arrested were released on bail, many stayed outside to cheer on their fellow protesters as they left police headquarters.

"I said today would be the city's slowdown before the shutdown," said Sharpton once he emerged. "Today we definitely slowed down many places and hundreds of people were arrested."

"I feel like we made a statement, but our presence is still needed," said a protester who remained late at night to cheer on released demonstrators.

There were no serious scuffles between protesters and officers, although a few suggested shooting back at police as retaliation.

"This is not an anti-police protest,” said Democratic Brooklyn City Councilwoman Leticia James. “What this is, is seeking justice for Sean Bell and seeking justice for all people of humanity."

In Downtown Brooklyn, a minor scuffle broke out when the Reverend Herbert Daughtry was arrested during the protests.

Nearby demonstrators said some pushing and shoving broke out when they thought the police were being disrespectful.

"The reverend was ready to go peacefully," said a protester. "He was trying to get some sort of order between himself and his constituents that were here today, and the NYPD was a little overzealous in wanting to establish that as quickly as possible. We were a little displeased with that, so there was some pushing and shoving that ensued as a result."

Councilman Charles Barron was among those taken in by officers.

The group blocked off the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge after being diverted by barricades near the Brooklyn Bridge -- which was their original location.

On the Upper East Side, demonstrators walked from 60th street and Third avenue to the mouth of the 59th Street bridge, bringing traffic to a standstill.

“NYPD police brutality was acquitted once again in this city and we cannot remain silent in this city if we care about justice,” said one protester.

“I came out here with a couple of my classmates and a couple of people who have been outraged by this case to protest it and hopefully it will have an impact on people and what they think about the case,” added another.

The demonstrations near the Queensboro Bridge remained peaceful.

Bell was killed in a hail of bullets outside a Queens nightclub on the eve of his weddding day, in November 2006. Three detectives were found not guilty of his death last month.

The case raised questions about police use of deadly force in minority neighborhoods. Bell, and his two wounded friends Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield were black; the three officers acquitted in the case are Hispanic, black and white.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the city is prepared for the demonstrations and that law enforcement will look to protect the rights of both the protesters, and those affected by the protests.

"One of the great thing about america is you can protest. It is a right that a lot of people don't have in other parts of this world," said Bloomberg.

However, Bloomberg said he would not let protestors shut the city down.

"The police are phenomenally well-trained," said Bloomberg. "We've deployed police to deal with crowds throughout the history of this city and certainly in the last six years. The Police Commissioner knows exactly what to do. We'll make sure that everybody's rights are protected and that the law is obeyed."

Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino was in Washington Tuesday where he met with Michigan Congressman John Conyers, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to argue against bringing federal civil rights charges against the detectives.

Conyers traveled to Queens last month to meet with Bell's supporters.

Wednesday, May 7 at 3 p.m.

  • Third Avenue at 125th Street
  • Park Avenue at 34th Street
  • Third Avenue at 60th Street
  • Varick and Houston Streets
  • One Police Plaza
  • 415 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn

    Were today's acts of civil disobedience effective?

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