Malcolm F’s Struggle

Did a Paroled Drug Dealer’s Outrage Over the Diallo Verdict Cost Him His Life?

Josh S. learned about Ferguson's death while attending a benefit concert organized by Refuse & Resist. "I was paralyzed; I didn't know what to say," he recalls. "[T]hey just informed me that the same person I was in the cell with for 20 hours was shot in the back of the head. How do you respond to something like that?"

Within a couple of hours, scores of people had gathered behind police tape on the street, some carrying protest signs. One placard portrayed Mayor Giuliani as "The Butcher of Soundview," whose trigger-happy enforcers had shot another unarmed man. "Who Shot Rudy?" one protester shouted, his question a stark reference to a controversial rap similarly titled. Released last year by a group called Screwball, the rap imagines Giuliani being gunned down at City Hall to the delight of the minority community: "Nobody cried—it was real like some Jews celebrating when the Pharaoh got killed." The lyrics can be traced to the mayor's troubled relationship with the city's young blacks and Latinos, many of whom have been unlawfully stopped and frisked, brutalized, or killed by white cops.

Giuliani said the violent lyrics of "Who Shot Rudy?" are troubling, particularly if children hear the song. Kyron Jones, 24, who wrote the rap, said it came from his own troubles with the law, including a stint in jail. He added that he had a friend who was shot twice by police although he was not arrested. As for the mayor, Jones said: "I don't want anybody to go out and shoot him. I'm just voicing the thoughts of my people."

The morning after the Ferguson shooting, Giuliani fired back at those who were comparing Ferguson to Diallo. Giuliani called the killing of Ferguson a completely different situation. He described Ferguson as a "career criminal" who had a long record of robbery, burglary, heroin trafficking, gun possession, and resisting-arrest charges, while Diallo had no rap sheet. "He'd been arrested several times while on parole, but somehow was never put back in prison, which is where people who violate parole should go," the mayor scoffed.

"He was just a human being," says Josh S. "They didn't know he was an ex-con when they killed him." The night after Ferguson was killed, Josh S. went back to Soundview, protesting. "Everybody was obviously very angry," he says. "We were all feeling the same, fearing [for] our own safety from the people who are supposed to protect us and serve us. . . . "

Of course, no one expects Rudy Giuliani to embrace Malcolm Ferguson's grieving mother. Juanita Young's drug-dealing son—the scum of Soundview, the mayor all but concluded—had it coming. But supporters urge Ms. Young to take heart. Life, they note, is full of ironies. One such irony can be found in Gerry Boyle's Cover Story, a recently released thriller about a fictional crime-fighting mayor of New York City. Boyle's whodunit picks up with a news bulletin from anchorman Dan Rather—and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Intones Rather:

"CBS News has learned of new developments in the murder of Johnny Fiore, the beloved mayor of New York, who single-handedly, his supporters say, took this city from the criminal elements that had plagued it, and handed it back to the law-abiding residents. As he so often put it, 'the real New Yorkers.' "

The crowd was silent. The woman in front of me shook her head and listened.

"As you probably know by now, Mayor Fiore, in one of history's more astounding ironies, has become a crime victim himself."

Rather turned and held his arm out toward the facade of the Algonquin. The camera zoomed in on a somber cop, then back to Rather.

"To cap this historic and tragic and so very discouraging story, the mayor of New York City was killed here sometime around midnight last night, stabbed to death in the restroom of this famous New York landmark, authorities say. One man is in custody. . . . "

Additional reporting: Dennis Bernstein, host-producer of KPFA/Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints, Danielle Douglass, and AP

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