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I'm going to begin this diary by saying that personally I agree with Al Sharpton on this protest for a lot of reasons.  Yes, the prosecution screwed up the case.  Yes, to me Al Sharpton is usually one who tends to rabble rouse for the attention of the cameras.  But if this protest gets one single American to think about police brutality and the insantity of the criminal justice system for minorities, then it's all good.  As long as it remains peaceful.

That being said......

Al Sharpton is planning a massive protest in NYC over the Sean Bell case where three police officers (two black, one white) shot at Sean Bell and his friends fifty times after they went to strip club to celebrate Sean's wedding the next morning.  Sean was killed and his two friends were injured from the shooting.

Al Sharpton asserts:

"We strategically know how to stop the city so people stand still and realize that you do not have the right to shoot down unarmed, innocent civilians," Sharpton told an overflow crowd of several hundred people at his National Action Network office in the historically black Manhattan neighborhood. "This city is going to deal with the blood of Sean Bell."

Now how does this have anything to do with Obama?

It is quite simple.  The media is going to ask him what he thinks of the protest and pretty much want him to Sister Soulja, Al Sharpton about the protest to prove that he is not a black radical.  Black angry people protesting in one of the largest cities in America is going to set up an atmosphere where the media is going to set up gotcha questions for him.  This pressure will not be applied to the other candidates.

This is a tight rope and Obama has to be careful how he answers.  If he's silent, then he approves of what is going on and the media uses it to hurt him with white voters.  If he supports the protest, same thing happens.  However, his biggest danger lies in how his commentary plays in the black community.

The biggest myth is that black people support Obama because he's black. The thing is he had to prove himself just like any other candidate to blacks and that he had our interest at heart.  That he could win but at the same time be accessable to us as well.  The danger with this controversy is that if he fumbles on it, it could cost him votes in the black community and he could be seen as someone who uses political expedience instead of helping out the community when we feel that an injustice has been done.

Now he handled the Wright perfectly, and I'm sure that he has a reply waiting for this one that is nuanced but eases the tension on both sides.  But it is going to be an extremely difficult task anyway you look at it and could probably not have come at a worse time campaign wise.

So he has to prove his mettle and not lose a step.  He has to show that he respects law enforcement and the job they do while at the same time being sympathetic to the Bell family and the community.  It'll be interesting to see how he response as this situation gets louder.

Originally posted to Niwind on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:04 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Empathy (10+ / 0-)

    Obama lives empathy - so I honestly do not believe that he will have any problems answering those questions.

    "Proud to proclaim: I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal"

    by sara seattle on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:08:04 PM PDT

  •  Pretty easy... (7+ / 0-)

    ...just say what Bloomberg said...people have a right to protest, but they should do so in a manner that respects our system of justice...

    Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.

    by Aqualad08 on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:08:39 PM PDT

  •  Al Sharpton has no credibility (0+ / 0-)

    and is more likely to harm than help a cause.  It sounds to me like those cops got away with something (although I can only speculate), but Al Sharpton ought to retire from the rabble rousing business.  

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by johnny rotten on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:11:20 PM PDT

    •  Sharpton is Sharton (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnny rotten

      not much there --- there

      "Proud to proclaim: I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal"

      by sara seattle on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:13:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A lot of Black people would (11+ / 0-)

        disagree with you. I have relatives who barely make it one month to the next. If they got in a legal jam, Sharpton would be one of the first people that they would think of.

        I know that he is not held in high regard with the mostly well-educated, upper middle class folks who read Daily Kos but he doesn't have to "rabble rouse" to maintain his support with many poor people. Remember Imus went groveling to him to be on his radio show to try and get his job back last year.

        "though we rush ahead to save our time- we are only what we feel" Neil Young- 1968

        by blindyone on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:22:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I should not have been as flip (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and I do see your point - seriously --

          My concern with Sharpton however is that he will "talk up" - whatever is happening - and sometimes he gets way ahead of himself - and then spends years trying to redeem himself.

          which is really too bad - because he could have been a terrific spokesperson - but he does not investigate too much before he opens his mouth - and that is why he has the reputation he has.

          "Proud to proclaim: I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal"

          by sara seattle on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:29:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree that a mass action type (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sara seattle, eve

            event probably won't help much. My daughter lives in NYC and works in the Bronx. There is some real outrage going on right now.

            "though we rush ahead to save our time- we are only what we feel" Neil Young- 1968

            by blindyone on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:35:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Sharpton learned his tawana brawley lesson (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jennybravo, shunpike

            he is much more careful now in what causes he takes on.   I have to agree with him that the decision in the Sean Bell case is seriously FLAWED and I do not really think the actions Sharpton is calling for in NYC will directly effect OBAMA...except with the people who already have a problem with Black People in general.

            and anyway... Sharpton is the one who has already DIFFUSED what could have immediately become a bad situation, he was the one who called for and created CALM in the face of that BAD court decisison and he is the one who is giving angry NYers (not all of them Black) a way to express that angry other then through violence.

            It is my personal opinion that the BEST course of action for the Bell family and Sharpton to take is to use the criminal court decision as a basis to  SUE the POLICE DEPARTMENT in CIVIL COURT for alot of money on the grounds that the NYPD is responsible for putting a gun in the hands of a man who was NOT able to handle that responsibilty...and it caused an unarmed innocent man to be killed.

            Perhaps if the NYPD was sued in civil court they would be much more careful about WHO they allowed to become ARMED Officers of the law.  

            "THE SURGE IS WORKING" is the 2008 replacement for "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"

            by KnotIookin on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 10:16:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Sharpton's credibility (5+ / 0-)

      has nothing to do with Sean Bell's murder. I know of no national politicians that have stood with Sean Bell's family.

      "How can I go off and join FRELIMO, when I've got 9 more payments on the fridge?" Mrs. Conclusion Monty Python

      by Sansouci on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:17:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Mayor Bloomberg (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnny rotten, votingin08

      has more credibility here.

      He made a really great statement on Friday about how no one wins here and "a child lost his faith, a wife lost her groom, and parents lost their son" or something like that.

      It was much better than anything Sharpton or <shudders> Rudy could ever have said at this time.

      •  Of course, "the establishment", (0+ / 0-)

        which is the city of New York here, has an interest in pretending that the cops aren't at fault. Any admission of wrongdoing and the possible civil awards will be that much higher.

        "though we rush ahead to save our time- we are only what we feel" Neil Young- 1968

        by blindyone on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:25:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And they should also as Mrs Clinton (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, sara seattle, KnotIookin, trivium

    as she is a Senator from... NY.

    It really isn't a hard question to answer though as has already been pointed out.

    I am from MN and if you think our caucuses are undemocratic I have a lake to introduce you to.

    by edgeways on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:11:55 PM PDT

    •  They should but they won't. At least not in a (5+ / 0-)

      gotcha type fashion like they will Barack.

      •  maybe not, but she will have to address it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and her response will become part of the mix.

        I agree that Barack needs to think this out clearly before he answers any questions.  If someone does try to gotcha him, he should say "I will be posting a commentary about this tragedy on my website in the next couple days," and then do it.

        I disagree, however, that Barack handled Wright totally expertly, especially in the weeks following The Speech (which was brilliant, no doubt).  He could have been much more supportive of the message Wright was preaching about in the controversial sermon, which was just about as controversial as this quote:

        "If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read 'Vietnam.'  It can never be saved as long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over."

        MLK, Speech: "Beyond Vietnam" April 4, 1968

        In other words, America, because of its disregard for humanity, is a lost soul in need of salvation.  How different is that from "God damn America?"

        "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

        by nailbender on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:35:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Obama should (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, sara seattle, trivium, soms, DRStarks

    ask what does HRC think about it. NY is her constituency, it happened on her watch.

    "How can I go off and join FRELIMO, when I've got 9 more payments on the fridge?" Mrs. Conclusion Monty Python

    by Sansouci on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:12:19 PM PDT

  •  Leave it to Al Sharpton (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny rotten, Chi, joan reports, winsock

    to destroy this.

    I'm a New Yorker who KNEW Sean Bell as a teenager and the way the prosecution tried this case angered the hell out of me and millions of New Yorkers, black, white, hispanic, asian are just as upset

    but when Al Sharpton comes out and threatens to grind the city to a halt, it is VERY counterproductive.

  •  Sigh (4+ / 0-)

    I really hope someone will talk him out of this. You know, the Sean Bell case is a freaking tragedy. But "shutting down the city" isn't going to produce any kind of positive action, other than resentment towards the protestors.

    I suspect he is just trying to remain relevant rather than doing anything of value.

    Rev. Wright interviewed by Bill Moyers: Watch the whole thing! Pass it on!

    by jenontheshore on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:21:41 PM PDT

  •  If there was a President Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'd have no doubt that HIS Civil Rights Division in HIS Justice Department would be finding a way to file charges against those cops.

  •  Sean Bell (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, trivium, DRStarks

    I dont think Senator Obama should be ask any questions about this before Senator Clinton has been ask first. she is the senator from new york.   this diary should have been about what hillary has to say and the tight rope she has to walk on this issue.

    •  But she doesn't really. Fair or not, she doesn't (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trivium, shunpike

      It's the same reason that Bill Clinton could be friends with Bobby Seal.  While they can interact with those who seem radical, their connection to their whiteness in the media is never questioned.  Barack because he's black and because of his problems with being seen as an extremist is in a more difficult position in terms of the media setting up questions.

      That's the way it is unfortunately.

  •  How Obama can chime in! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He has to make this about abuse of force.
    Make sure he doesn't frame this as a Black issue.  Which this is not and the MSM has framed it as such.

    This is a clear case of brutality and injustice.

    That's how Obama attacks this when he's probed.
    Talk about the brutality and the injustice that was done to this man and his family.

    He shouldn't attack Hillary or ask what she thinks since it's her home state.  She will obviously give a generic answer and it will be irrelevant.

    "To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful." - Edward R. Murrow

    by DRStarks on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 10:00:21 PM PDT

  •  Tightrope (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    his biggest danger lies in how his commentary plays in the black community.

    Couldn't have said it better. We will tolerate a certain amount of throwing under the bus. But we won't tolerate having to live under the bus.

    He gets a pass but he can't use the Bloomberg statement. I will know we are post racial when one of these stories is about a victim who isn't a person of color. This happens far too often and Barack passed on the Jena 6 and that was fine, but too many of these and  it becomes a lack of principle. He has to speak to all the people and that includes the people that power does not want him to speak to.

    All our skinfolk are not our kinfolk, and if Barack finds himself in the "not our kinfolk" column he will be as viable as Alan Keyes in the AA community.

    •  Actually he did respond to Jena 6 and was, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trivium, shunpike

      in fact, the only Presidental candidate to do so.  He wasn't all rah rah, fight the power about it but he did discuss the racial implications and it is something that he has riffed on in his speeches in front of white and black audiences.

      The overwhelming thing he needs to do when approached with this stuff from the media is simple.  Compassion and fairness.  That's it.  

  •  I so enjoy reading a well-written, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    thought-provoking diary followed by thoughtful comments of the same caliber.  Kudos to NiWind, and kudos as well to all you commenters who expressed your own points of view in a rational, courteous, discussion-enabling manner.  All of you have left me with some things to ponder.

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