|09-05-2008, 07:40 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: NEW YORK CITY
Sharpton arrested as 100's protest
Police estimated that about 190 people were arrested, including Sharpton, two survivors of the shooting and the slain man's fiancee. They lined up and put their hands behind their backs as police arrested them on disorderly conduct charges.
The Reverend Al Sharpton has been a public figure of controversy for years. His stand for equality in civil rights is well known. And although at times he seems to go a little beyond what is necessary to get his point across, no one can deny that he can draw the attention of the media to a given event.
Last week, after the jury in the trial of the police officers accused of gunning down soon-to-be married and unarmed Sean Bell on New York's streets returned with a decision to acquit, Al Sharpton declared that he would "shut the city down" for such an egregious affront to justice and to Sean Bell's civil liberties. On May 7, according to the Associated Press, the Reverend and hundreds of protesters blocked traffic at the Brooklyn Bridge and were arrested for disorderly conduct. Sean Bell's fiance and two survivors of the 50-bullet fusillade were also among those arrested. The demonstrations were part of a coordinated campaign to urge federal authorities to investigate the Sean Bell shooting that occurred in November 2006.
But were the demonstrations necessary? Do protests serve a purpose other than self-promotion and calling attention to something with which most people would rather not be bothered?
Some argue that Reverend Sharpton and a few others (Jesse Jackson, Cindy Sheehan) have selfish agendas, promoting themselves and their own interests more than their cause(s). The argument goes on to include charges of fictitious philanthropism or altruism and that the methodology employed hurts their respective causes more than it helps. And there may be some truth to that argument.
For instance, Reverend Sharpton is not only famous for championing civil liberties but he also has a certain notoriety as a media-hound, or one who may court the media's attention too shamelessly. Some see him as too willing to use race as a polarizing and galvanizing force in his arguments (although it must be said that many of the people and causes Reverend Sharpton represents are minorities and ask for his intercession). In the case of Tawana Brawley in 1987, where the 15-year-old girl was found covered in dog feces and racial slurs and apparently raped by six white men after four days being missing, Sharpton took up her cause and case. When testimony later revealed that Brawley was lying about the entire incident, a grand jury exonerated accused Steven Pagones, a local prosecutor, for being the victim of a hoax. (Pagones later won a defamation suit against Sharpton, Brawley's lawyers and family). Sharpton remains unapologetic, stating that he believed his client.
As with the Sean Bell case, Sharpton held protests and rallies, and was arrested outside of state buildings protesting the ongoing investigation (at the time) of what he thought was racial bias against Tawana Brawley. However, this case stands out as one as perceived grandstanding and calling race into an issue, fanning the flames of polarization to the point of having an city and a nation divided over an issue of fictitious construct. Many still regard Sharpton as divisive and a rabble rouser for the Brawley case.
Which was a point of contention that was brought to light again with the case of the Jena Six in Louisiana, which many viewed as an overreaction to a school fight and an overzealous prosecutor. However, given the state laws and the fact all the teenaged boys involved (six African-American teens kicked and beat a Caucasian teen into unconsciousness) were being prosecuted as adults, charged with attempted murder. In this instance, Reverend Sharpton's involvement helped in the organization of a huge demonstration rally (about 30,000 protesters) that descended on the tiny Louisiana town (pop. 3000) to protest the charges. The demonstration was peaceful and helped draw attention to what may have amounted to an overreach of proper jurisprudence had the case went to trial as it existed. The charges were dropped to lesser ones of battery and assault and the case was prosecuted. However, had the media not taken hold of the subject and such a massive outpouring of public outrage and support for fairness, the Jena Six may have undergone trials that put them in prison for years.
And there are many examples, both pro and con, that exhibit how and why protests work at times and sometimes how and why they do not. From the Civil Rights movement to the sit-ins and takeovers conducted by the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 70's to large and small demonstration and protest rallies all across the United States, the right of the people to peacefully assemble is part of our heritage and a constitutionally protected right. To say that they do nothing but stir up trouble and polarize populations would be to minimize and marginalize their importance in making people aware of an issue, to ensure that one parties are not neglected by another's, and for a given population to raise a grievance to be heard by a government -- all of which might not be possible without the aid of a public demonstration.
But there can be unforeseen consequences that can befall demonstrations, either while in progress or afterward. Demonstrations and protests can turn ugly and be remembered more for the civil disruption than for its original intent. Most demonstrations are planned and are rarely impromptu gatherings, yet this does not guarantee that the nature of business is in the best interest of society as a whole.
But taken as method, as messenger, as an avenue of popular exposure, demonstrations and protests are necessary for the will of the people, or at least a given population, to be heard.
Will Reverend Sharpton's arrest and attempts to shed light on what he and others perceive as a terrible miscarriage of justice? Will these actions become the impetus for social change, or at least a starting place for the examination or re-examination of what may have been a tragic case of abrogated civil rights and an act of violence that, through improper police procedure, resulted in the death of a young man?
And that is true reason for the inclusion of the right to assemble in the Constitution. It is a vehicle for hope
|09-05-2008, 10:14 PM||#2|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: West Cork, Ireland
Well thats what happens when there is a dictatorial regime in operation
They don't just hope for our ignorance, they depend on it... it's time to break that cycle!