New York Cries for Justice
Protests denounce Diallo verdict and murder of Malcolm Ferguson
Revolutionary Worker #1046, March 12, 2000
We received this report from a correspondent in New York City:
On Thursday night, March 2, I walked down Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx--the night after the police stole the life of yet another Black man. At Amadou Diallo's building, the flowers were fresh and the candles were still lit in his memory. I remembered the first time I came here and looked in the small doorway where Amadou was trapped as four cops fired 41 shots at him. On March 1--just a few blocks from where Amadou was killed, and just five days after the not-guilty verdict on those four cops--23-year-old Malcolm Ferguson was gunned down by a plainclothes cop.
There have been protests every day since the Diallo verdict came out on February 25. On Sunday, February 27, more than 1,000 people took to the streets for a third straight day. Starting at the UN building, people marched through the streets and ended up at City Hall and the police headquarters--which were surrounded by riot police. The media reported that the verdict was denounced from the pulpit at churches across the city that morning. On March 2, 3,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C. to demand federal indictments of the four cops.
The night Malcolm Ferguson was murdered, several hundred people gathered at the scene. Youth from the neighborhood and activists against police brutality from around the city shouted "Murderers!" at the hundreds of police in riot gear who have occupied the neighborhood since the Diallo verdict. Police helicopters hovered overhead. Bottles were thrown at the police. Two people were arrested.
The next night over 300 people marched from the site where Malcolm was murdered to where Amadou was murdered, chanting "Malcolm!" and "Fuck the Police!" On Friday, March 3, 600 high school students walked out of their schools, rallied in Brooklyn, and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall. People's Justice 2000, a coalition of activist organizations, has called for "41 Days of Action" against police brutality and murder. And Amnesty International has called for "a review of New York City police shooting tactics."
"The cops is the real criminals, man. Ain't nobody an angel. But people that get arrested on this block, it's just for little shit. Or for standing up for what they believe in. Cops is the ones murdering, doing the real crimes--and they walkin'. I bet you if a guy was to kill a cop, he not gonna walk. He gonna get life or the death penalty. This is not right. We all people. The only difference is that they got a badge and a gun, and we don't."
A close friend of Malcolm Ferguson
On March 2, the second night of protests against Malcolm's murder, I went to where he lived and talked with his family, friends and neighbors. There was a memorial for Malcolm in front of the building where he was shot, with candles, flowers, bottles of beer and handmade signs paying tribute to his life. A woman who was a close friend of Malcolm told me a little about him: "He was a good person, happy, open-minded, understanding, always cool.... He'd just finished coming from a job interview when this happened. He was doing good for himself--and he didn't expect to die."
In a shameful attempt to justify their crime, the police made public Malcolm's record, which included six arrests for minor drug charges. One of Malcolm's friends spoke quietly but with a controlled rage in his voice: "You read on the paper's front page, `Cops Kill Ex-Con.' You know, everybody gets in trouble in their life. Little things, you get in trouble.... But to call him an `ex-con' on the front page? At least say his name. Just 'cause he got locked up he's nobody? I was hurt. That was my friend. He wasn't armed. He was just running for his life. He was scared. They didn't have to do that--they shot him in the head."
Malcolm's mother, Juanita Young, stood in front of the memorial for her son. Shaking and sobbing, she said: "He was not a bad man. God is my witness, he was not a bad man. I would like to thank everybody for what they're doing for my son. I really, really appreciate it."
"They said that they didn't mean to kill Diallo. Why they shot 41 times? Why they shot Malcolm in the head? They meant to kill him. They didn't just want to shoot him to take him down. They was out to hit him. They're not serving justice."
A youth in the Bronx
From people of all ages, I heard bitterness about the way the police mistreat people day in and day out. A Black woman in her 40s said she keeps her kids in the house to protect them from the police: "If something go wrong, you be scared to call the cops cause you think you're gonna get shot. They got over with that Amadou Diallo thing around the corner so the cops feel that they can do anything. And there's more to come. Something has to be done about them cops for real."
Another friend of Malcolm's told me: "You could just be standing in front of your building and they'll come, ask you for ID, search you, put you against the wall, tell you to go upstairs. Come around the corner and just scream at you. Little kids play football in the street and they'll tell them to stop playing. The Fourth of July comes, we can't even blow firecrackers. You can't do nothing on this block. Everybody gotta be home." A young Latina who knew Malcolm said: "The cop should go to jail 'cause he shot somebody innocent. Does the cop feel guilty for it? Does he? Or does he feel happy? I spoke to a cop yesterday and we asked him, `How y'all feel that y'all just killed somebody innocent?' And they was like, `Oh, we feel great."'
On the day of the Diallo verdict, Malcolm took part in one of the marches through the neighborhood to the 43rd precinct that blocked traffic on a major highway at rush hour. He and a friend were arrested. I talked to a 17-year-old high school student with the Refuse & Resist! Youth Network who was in the same cell as Malcolm: "Malcolm was making us all laugh. He was joking around, but at the same time he was really serious about the issue. He really believed strongly in the fight for justice.... I couldn't even speak when I found out that he was the one that was murdered. I was paralyzed. I didn't know how to react because it never had hit that close to home. Less than a week ago I was in a cell with him, I was talking to him--and now he's dead.... Malcolm stood up for justice. We should follow his example and do the same."
In recent days, the neighborhood where Amadou and Malcolm lived has become even more of an occupied zone, with police out on the streets in large numbers. The people are confronted with a heavy situation.
Among the young people I talked with in the neighborhood, I heard some determined voices of resistance. A young Latina who was Malcolm's friend said: "We're gonna make sure that these cops pay for what they have done. The police officers will have to serve some time--or else there won't be no peace."
A young brother said: "There's no peace over here. It's cops against people, that's how it is over here. We gotta stand up. We gotta stand up for our rights 'cause they can't be just killing us. They can't just choose who they want to kill and get away with it."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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