Blood and Bridges

Rudy's Wrongs Stir a Movement at the Diallo March

As much as human rights movements need their Diallos and their Draculas they also need their archangels, and without question the handling of the Diallo case on the streets and in the media has been our right Reverend Al Sharpton's finest hour, his statesmanship graduation ceremony, and for all those who must recall and cannot forgive his baby-curl days as a boy preacher, James Brown fan-club booster, police snitch, FBI informant, televangelist for Tawana Brawley, December 12 movement coalition splitter, all must also remember as I pointed out in these pages some years ago that Sharpton is not a man but a messenger, in the tradition of the Yoruba trickster deity Esu-Elegba, who like Sharpton is fabled to swim in waters murky, dirty, and crystalline, an agent of chaos who must be feted and fed before any momentous journey is undertaken or any road can be safely traveled.

Hence the gaiety that prevailed on the Yellow Brick Bridge last Thursday as the masses blithely waltzed into the Emerald City to the mellifluous strains of The People United Can Never Be Defeated, a slogan for once more fact than fable. Certainly it seemed that way from the sheepish, hangdog looks on the faces of the NYPD footsoldiers and mounted police (and one imagines the helicopter pilots and boat patrols as well). You got the impression they were loitering at the rally rather than policing the darn thing, some finding their only moment of levity when a brother began shouting Live Here! Work Here! at them in reference to the residency requirements the movement is pressing for. Not in a million years, said the guffaws. Speaking of call and response, however, I must also report that the event's most bloodcurdling moment occurred when a movement exhorter got us going on a cry of "Amadou! What did he do?" Then he got us counting shots: 1! 2! 3! 4! 5! 6! 7! 8! 9! 10! 11! 12! 13! 14! 15! 16! 17! 18! 19! 20! 21! 22! 23! 24! 25! 26! 27! 28! 29! 30! 31! 32! 33! 34! 35! 36! 37! 38! 39! 40! 41!

In this digital age where only perfectly structured sets of zeros and ones are supposed to get anyone excited, the bullet-count was a reminder of what humanity loses when a brown body mysteriously morphs into a carnival game or a pinball target behind the alphanumeric eyes of four type-A porcine specimens. Four pigs to be precise, more detached and hardwired than Schwarznegger's Terminator, capable of using a dead man's feet for target practice, secure in the long-standing American belief that a black man has no rights a white man should feel compelled to respect, safe in the conviction that no white policeman has ever been convicted for killing a black man in this country and that as Ice Cube once observed, the mission is to serve, protect, and break a nigger's neck.

One new slogan I heard thrown into the mix that day was also directed at cops: If We're Not Safe, You're Not Safe. Thankfully the festive atmosphere was counterbalanced by a little madman theory just to keep things in dialectical perspective, as seen to by the Parliament-Funkadelic refugees handing out flyers promoting the formation of a People's Militia and quoting Gandhi to the effect that violence becomes necessary whenever there is no possibility of punishing the wicked. Call it a cautionary device— a way of saying to the powers that be that if a Simi Valley jury shows up for these four elite white cops, last Thursday's partydown Rainbow Warriors just might start acting a tad more belligerent. Rodney King 2 in Gotham City? After last Thursday? Are they crazy?

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