Everyone came to Harlem looking for justice this morning. They came up Lenox Avenue and down Fredrick Douglass Boulevard and across the 145th Street Bridge from the Bronx.
The old Yankee Stadium peered across the Harlem River with the new Yankee Stadium in its shadow as people passed Crown Fried Chicken and Famous King’s Pizza and filed into a storefront wedged between Royal Rose Furniture and the 145 Grocery & Tobacco.
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke about change and justice at the headquarters of the National Action Network the day after a judge acquitted three New York City Police Department detectives who had been charged in the shooting that killed Sean Bell and wounded Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield.
“We are going to change policing in this city,” Sharpton said. “Justice can be achieved if we all work together.”
Everyone wants to believe him because justice is hard to find.
That’s why Khiel Coppin was killed by the NYPD in a hail of 20 bullets outside his Brooklyn home just under a year from the day that Bell was killed in his Queens neighborhood by 50 more NYPD bullets which came seven years after Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by the police outside of his Bronx building.
Broken justice keeps killing and killing and killing.
It’s easy to blame the shooters, but this has more to do with brutal police policies than brutal police officers.
The real problem is with a Mayor and a Police Commissioner who have made no attempt to change a system that ended the lives of Coppin at 18 years, 20 bullets and Bell at 23 years, 50 bullets and Diallo at 23 years, 41 bullets.
This is not what any of us want our city to be. But we still don’t speak up enough or stand up enough or protest enough or march enough.
Sharpton is the only one who stands up for everyone and it’s time for more of us to stand with him. Then maybe someday people won’t be gunned down in the streets.
I will always remember Sean Bell as a right-handed pitcher at John Adams High School in Ozone Park.
And I will never forget the 50 bullets that killed him because there will be 50 more with another name on them if we don’t start speaking up and standing up and protesting and marching for justice.