Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Post-Diallo Calm, a Hope US Will Act

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Post-Diallo Calm, a Hope US Will Act

Article excerpt

Standing quietly in the damp chill afternoon amid thousands of other protesters on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Goldie Davis is "raging mad and praying to God that good will come of it."

The middle-aged, middle-class mother from Brooklyn embodies the controlled indignation that spilled into the streets here and in other cities from Newark, N.J., to Atlanta over the weekend, after the acquittal of four white police officers accused of murdering Amadou Diallo.

In the year since the officers mistook the unarmed African immigrant's wallet for a gun and killed him in a hail of 41 bullets, Diallo has become a national symbol of a perceived police racism that assumes black males to be dangerous.

But this verdict did not immediately lead to the sort of violence that followed similar verdicts, such as in Los Angeles after the trial of officers charged with beating Rodney King.

One reason is that protesters like Ms. Davis are still hanging their hopes on intervention by the federal government.

Within hours of the verdict, the US Attorney's office announced it will investigate whether the four officers violated Diallo's civil rights. While it's not clear if that will result in new federal charges, African-American leaders and Diallo's parents have used the prospect of federal intervention to appeal for calm.

"We believe the federal government will turn this around," says Al Sharpton, the controversial New York civil rights leader.

As of this writing, the pleas for calm were mostly heeded, but not everywhere. On Saturday afternoon, several thousand protesters broke through police barricades in Midtown and began marauding in bands toward in lower Manhattan. While dozens were arrested, the crowds remained mostly nonviolent.

In one incident, protesters stopped a few people who began overturning police scooters, reminding them that Kadiatou Diallo had urged a nonviolent response as a show of respect for her slain son.

Last month, in anticipation of a possible acquittal, Mrs. Diallo and her husband, Saikou, the Rev. Mr. Sharpton, and New York Congressman Charles Rangel met with US Justice Department officials to urge consideration of a civil rights case. They will meet with them again tomorrow, prior to a national march scheduled for the nation's capital on Thursday.

New York's heightened racial tensions over the past two years - sparked by the Diallo case and the police brutalization of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima - add to optimism that the US government will act. But legal experts caution it's unusual for the federal government to step in after a state case has been decided.

"The number of times it happens in civil rights cases is one or two a year," says Assistant US Attorney Alan Vinegrad, who recently prosecuted a New York police officer for sodomizing Mr. …

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