2008-04-18 / Editorial/Opinion

A Call For Calm, No Matter What The Decision

Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to a church in Jamaica last week to meet with clergy and elected officials about the coming verdict in the Sean Bell shooting case. As you probably know by now, the Far Rockaway resident was shot and killed outside a Jamaica nightclub in November of 2006 by police officers who said that they believed somebody with him in his car had a gun. Three of the officers were indicted for criminally shooting Bell and two of his friends. When their request for a change of venue was denied, the three chose a bench trial, where a judge alone hears the evidence and decides on guilt or innocence. Queens Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman has been hearing that case for more than three weeks now. The defense rested its case last week and closing arguments were heard on Monday. Cooperman has said that he would rule next Friday, April 25. While many long-time court watchers and pundits say that the evidence shows that the police officers had a reason to believe that a gun was present and violence was imminent, others argue that the police officers went so far from required procedures that they are criminally liable for the shootings. Cooperman will decide, and we hope that his decision, no matter what it may be, does not bring violence to the Far Rockaway peninsula. There are some who would welcome the violence, however, using it as a tool to keep their hold on the minority community. City Councilman James Sanders, who represents Far Rockaway, told The Wave that he believes that the cops are liable and that, should they be exonerated, he would welcome "passionate, militant protest." He told the New York Post, "If there is no justice, then we will be calling for a peaceful, law-abiding, responsible but militant protest." We wonder why Sanders believes that justice will be served only by a guilty verdict. We wonder if he, or anybody else, can control a "peaceful but militant protest" once it gets going. We will hear the verdict at the end of next week. Should that verdict be "not guilty," then we will see if Sanders and the others can make good on their promise to keep the protests they call for violence-free. "We don't want to see our communities burn," Sanders told The Wave this week. Neither do we.

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