The block surrounding 153 Franklin Street — Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Tribeca residence — was quiet around 6 p.m. last night. One cop car with two officers was stationed there, along with some lackluster barricades, and people smoked and rested on stoops. But then, at around 6:15 p.m., a group of people came from the direction of Varick Street. A woman wearing orange led the way, holding a megaphone.
“There is no hiding place, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, for you tonight,” she said.
The woman, chief of staff of the New Black Panther Party Khadijah Shakur, was one of about 20 people that eventually gathered to rally in front of the home of the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund accused of sexually assaulting a maid at the Sofitel Hotel in May. Since that time, the situation has become far more complicated.
After prosecutors began to doubt the veracity of the accuser, Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest and it now appears that charges against him could be dismissed. But the group that gathered Thursday evening, which never reached the 100 that Shakur hoped for early in the evening, wanted to send a message to Dominique Strauss-Kahn and prosecutors that he has not been exonerated in their eyes, and information that has since emerged about the victim is irrelevant to the crime. There is DNA evidence that a sexual encounter of some sort did occur.
Signs bearing Strauss-Kahn’s face featured slogans like “We believe the victim has a case and she needs to heard,” “We want equality under the laws,” “Rape is rape no matter who raped,” and “Mr. D.A. don’t give up on justice.” Chants of “hands off Africa,” “black power” and “no justice, no peace” were heard.
“We want to bring public attention that they have turned a rapist loose in the city of New York,” said Imam Akbar, the national minister of justice of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
But Strauss-Kahn wasn’t even home, activist Danette Chavis said the group was told.
Souleymane Diallo, a man from the Guinean and African community who took the megaphone to speak with the crowd, explained to the Voice that one of the reasons he came out was that the progression of the case has sent a negative message to immigrants from the District Attorney.
“That message is, if you are an immigrant and you have trouble in this country, you better not speak out because if you do they will be digging into your past, they will not be focusing only on the problem that happened,” he said.
He said that the immigration papers and tax returns of Strauss-Kahn’s accuser do not “have anything to do with the case.”
As the group chanted and spoke out, across the street onlookers gathered, taking photos of the proceedings. One person snapping pictures was elderly Upper East Side resident Renée Suaid, who said it was “historic.” She had been celebrating Bastille Day nearby.
“I think they are right, this guy has to be prosecuted,” she said.
The rally ended around 7:50 p.m. with the group joining hands in a circle, listening to a closing prayer from Imam Akbar, blocking the street. Shakur said the rally will happen weekly.