Four Cops on Trial in Albany, New York

Justice for Amadou Diallo!

By Margot Harry

Revolutionary Worker #1042, February 13, 2000

It is a year since Amadou Diallo was gunned down by four New York City police officers. The trial of the four cops accused of killing him is now unfolding in Albany, in upstate New York.

Amadou Diallo, a young immigrant from Africa, was standing in the vestibule of the building where he lived in the Bronx when four white plainclothes cops arrived. Amadou never had a chance. The cops--members of the "elite" Street Crimes Unit--didn't identify themselves. They just started shooting, firing 41 shots that pinned Amadou to the wall before his lifeless body slumped to the ground. Amadou was hit 19 times. Bullets struck the bottom of his feet--because the cops kept firing even after he was on the floor.

At Amadou's funeral, mourners carried a plain wooden box bound for Africa. Handwritten across the wood was a simple inscription: "Amadou Diallo." How could his family or friends have imagined that Amadou would end up returning to his homeland like this? How many others like Amadou have been murdered by enforcers of this white supremacist system? Will there be justice for Amadou?

The system made a move to deny that justice by transferring the trial to Albany. The decision was made by five white judges--one of whom is a crony of the lawyer for one of the killer cops.

Consider that the trial was moved out of the Bronx just before it was to begin--to a county in upstate New York where 86 percent of the people are white and only 9 percent are Black. This move stinks of an attempted fix -- a la the Rodney King case, when the 1992 trial of the LAPD cops who beat King was moved to the pro-police suburb of Simi Valley.

Consider that the judge assigned to hear the case was the lawyer for an Albany cop involved in the 1984 shooting of Jessie Davis, a mentally ill Black man. No charges were ever filed against the cops for killing Davis.

Consider that the trial was moved out of the city that has been promoted by the power structure as a major model for policing America's urban centers. Whatever the outcome of this case, the ruling class wants to limit damage to Mayor Giuliani's police-state apparatus.

Consider that those prosecuting the cops are from the Bronx District Attorney's office. What do these prosecutors do every day? They work hand-in-hand with police. The cops beat, brutalize and arrest people, especially Black and Latino people. Then the prosecutors try, convict and imprison the victims.

The judges who moved the case to Albany said that the cops could not get a "fair trial" in the Bronx or anywhere in New York City. As Carl Dix, RCP national spokesperson and member of the national coordinating committee of the October 22 Coalition to Stop Brutality, said, "What does it mean that the authorities fear allowing the people of these neighborhoods the chance to judge these cops? If their claim that the police `serve and protect' is true, what are they afraid of? Perhaps their fear reveals the reality of their policing mission--that they are really like an occupying army that brutalizes and murders people and are afraid of being judged in the communities they patrol?"

Jan. 31 in Albany

On Jan. 31, the first day of jury selection, 250 people rallied outside the courthouse in Albany to demand justice. A committee for justice in Albany has linked up with anti-police brutality forces in NYC. Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network and others organized busloads of people from New York City. Amadou's parents, Kadiatou Diallo and Saikou Amad Diallo, were there to condemn police brutality and call for justice for their son and all victims. Standing by them were two other parents of victims killed by police: Iris Baez, whose son Anthony was choked to death by a cop, and Doris Boskey, mother of Gidone Busch, a Jewish man shot to death by cops last August.

Speakers at the rally included Ron Daniels from Center for Constitutional Rights, which has a filed a lawsuit against the Street Crimes Unit; Richie Perez from the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights and People's Justice 2000; and Carl Dix. The Oct. 22 Coalition brought the Stolen Lives Project, documenting the names of over 2000 victims of police murder and exposing how Amadou's murder is part of a nationwide epidemic. People's Justice 2000 is organizing people to be present in the courtroom throughout the trial. A contingent from several unions as well as several Black and Puerto Rican elected officials also attended the rally.

Lumumba--a retired postal worker from Harlem and a member of the NY Oct. 22 Coalition and the NY Coalition Against the Death Penalty--was glad to see all the different people at the rally. But he wanted to see more youth. He said youth need to confront what they are up against--to be out in the streets in force, fighting for their freedom. Lumumba told the RW that the Black churches are "trying to send the children to heaven when they need to send them into the streets to get knowledge."

Jail Amadou's Murderers!

The cops do not dispute that they shot and killed Amadou Diallo. But they claim they did not commit murder. Their arguments expose how the police in general look at the people--as an enemy force. It's the outlook of an occupying force toward those they occupy.

The killer cops insist that they were acting legally and within official policy when they stopped Amadou. They claim that he refused to comply with their orders. They say they thought Amadou was reaching for a gun and, fearing that their lives were in danger, they had to shoot. Under the rule of this system, they don't have to prove there was any actual danger to themselves--they just have to show that there was reason to make them think they were in danger. They are going to argue in court that the vestibule was dark and they couldn't tell the difference between Amadou's wallet and a gun. They don't address the obvious question: If the hall was too dark to see, why shoot at all?

These cops who so brutally stole Amadou's life are now whining that they are suffering because they have to live with the shooting and its aftermath. Their lawyers are asking jurors to put themselves in the cops' shoes and look at Amadou through the eyes of the police. Through these cops' eyes, everyone in the oppressed communities of the Bronx is a potential criminal.

The cops who murdered Amadou belonged to the Street Crimes Unit (SCU), an innovation under the "stop-them-all" policy of Giuliani and his police commissioner Safir. SCU cops have stopped tens of thousands of people, most of them Black or Latino, for no reason other than the color of their skin. This gestapo treatment is justified on the basis of "stopping crime." But most of the people stopped by SCU cops were never charged with a crime. And a high percentage of people who do get arrested by the SCU have their cases thrown out of court.

On February 4, exactly a year from the day Amadou Diallo was killed, 500 people gathered at the site of his execution. Neighbors say that nothing has changed--police continue to stop and search people at will. The trial of Amadou's murderers has been moved far away. But the reality of police brutality continues.

The massive protests after the murder of Amadou forced the indictments of the cops. If the people are to win justice in this case and see Amadou's murderers go to jail, there must be determined resistance that makes the authorities realize they will pay a very high political price if they let these murdering cops walk. The people need to send a loud and clear message to the power structure: They can run, but they can't hide.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)