ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

June 20, 2008

2008.06.20: Sean Bell Report: Hynes assailed for legal action against grandmother in protest

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, June 20, 2008 10:58 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Sean Bell Report: Hynes assailed for legal action against grandmother in protest

Insult to injury – Hynes assailed for legal action against grandmother in Sean Bell protest


Amsterdam News

Originally posted 6/19/2008

“This is not the plantation. You are not going to tell us to behave for six months and then you’ll dismiss the disorderly conduct charges against a 78-year-old grandmother. You need to dismiss the charges now,” an angry Councilman Charles Barron told Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes through a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “You need to tell the killer cops who gunned down Sean Bell that they need to behave. You need to tell the judge who acquitted them to behave.”

According to Barron, in Brooklyn Criminal in Court last Thursday, adding something like legal injury to judicial insult, the office of D.A. Charles Hynes informed seven Brooklyn participants in the May 7 Sean Bell day of civil disobedience that he would not be dropping the case against them.

A 78-year-old grandmother was among them.

Amy Olatunji is the widow of the late international legend and master drummer Babatunde Olatunji. An outraged Barron slammed Hynes for “disrespecting the wife of our great cultural icon Babatunde Olatunji—who taught drummers throughout New York, this nation and in fact, throughout the world. Charles Hynes decided that he wants to prosecute this 78-year-old grandmother. He should be ashamed of himself and he should apologize publicly.”

Brandishing the yellow slip that ordered him back to court on September 14, Barron, speaking before assembled media at the Tuesday press conference outside Hynes’ Downtown Brooklyn office, said that not until The Amsterdam News placed a call on Monday did he learn that “all of a sudden, D.A. Hynes is saying that he is offering ACDs [adjournments in contemplation of dismissal].”

Sure enough, after the AmNews contacted the D.A.’s press office on Monday, the e-mailed response was, “The District Attorney intends to offer ACDs to the 28 arrested in Brooklyn, provided they do not have criminal records.”

Barron called on Hynes to dismiss the disorderly charges against Olatunji for protesting the acquittal of detectives Mike Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Michael Cooper in the 50-shot slaying of groom Sean Bell.

Barron, his wife, Inez Barron, and Ms. Olatunji were among the 200-plus arrested for the May 7 traffic-stopping protests in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Along with other Brooklynites, they appeared in court on June 12 to answer to disorderly conduct charges.

Barron opined that rather than dismiss the charges or issue the ACD, as is usual for this type of charge, Hynes wants to use this highly sensitive case to make examples so as to “intimidate people not to perform acts of civil disobedience. This isn’t about me or Ms. Olatunji,” said Barron, “this is a Hynes attack on civil disobedience. He should be more angry at the police officers who killed an innocent man on his wedding day, shooting 50 bullets. Instead, he is going after those who peacefully sat down in the street.”

On Monday when the AmNews made the initial inquiry and asked about a report that not only had the D.A.’s office said that there would be no ACD offered, but a September 10 court date set, Jerry Schmetter, director of public information from Hynes’ office, responded, “I am not sure where you got that report, but we will be offering ACDs to anyone who does not have a criminal record.”

Barron begged to differ. “When we were in court they told our lawyers that they would not be offering ACDs or dismissing the case against us. In fact, they gave us a court date. He’s out of his mind. How dare he prosecute Amy Olatunji, the widow of an international leader, for exercising civil disobedience? He is a hypocrite. D.A. Hynes, you go to all the Black churches on Dr. Martin Luther King’s day—and he was the father of civil disobedience—and then yet you prosecute our grandmother for doing the same thing. You should be ashamed of yourself. The Black officers didn’t want to arrest her because they knew who she was and they respected her. But Hynes wants to make an example of her. He needs to be angry at the officers for executing Sean Bell. We demand that he drops charges against Ms. Olatunji.”

Barron told the paper that he had gone to confront Hynes at a meeting with Brooklyn clergy on Friday. While he said he did not catch up with the D.A., he did tell the gathering of preachers about the impending prosecution of Olatunji. Charged with disorderly conduct, the petite lady originally from Alabama told the AmNews that she took part in the Bell protest because, “I didn’t want to leave this planet with unborn generations believing that I had not done everything I could. If there’s still something I can do to bring justice and equality for all people, I will.”

Noah Arafa, the young Legal Aid lawyer who is representing the Barrons, Olatunji and others, told the AmNews, that out of the 28 people arrested, “seven have had no offers. [On Tuesday] five people were offered ACDs; the rest of the people are expected to be offered ACDs.”

“They gave me and two other people an ACD on Tuesday,” Rev. Herbert Daughtry told the AmNews. “I told the judge I am involved in Darfur and that it is a very critical time right now, and that I intended to be involved in another protest soon, so he said fine and told me that rather than six months, I would have to stay out of trouble for 30 days.”

Activist Lloyd Gibbs, member of Operation POWER and the National Action Network, told the AmNews that he was offered “time served or a trial. I took a trial as a political statement, plus there is a $95 surcharge. I think it is a money-generating scheme by the courts. Technically, I should not have been charged with disorderly conduct because the [police] said, ‘Go and stand over there if you want to get arrested.’ So I did.”

“The police shot down this youth on the eve of his wedding day for no good reason in cold blood,” said Olatunji of the killing of Sean Bell in November 2006.” “I’m not happy to bequeath this type of climate to the unborn generations and those here right now.”

She was arrested and handcuffed and in jail for two hours, she said quietly. Asked why she thought the D.A. had continued the legal action against her on June 12 her in regard to the September 14 court date, Olatunji told the AmNews, “To keep me quiet for the summer,” she smiled.

There will definitely be more Bell protests, Barron assured, ACDs or not. “But that is why we are so against the ACD because it means that you can’t participate in any other type of protests for six months.

“D.A. Hynes should understand our outrage over the killing of Sean Bell, They murdered this young man, and we sat down peacefully in the street. What a tradeoff. They are lucky that we just want to march peacefully: 41 shots for Amadou Diallo; 50 shots for Sean Bell—and what do we do? We protest peacefully. What do you do, Charles Hynes? You prosecute our grandmother that the police didn’t even want to arrest.

“First, they shoot and kill Sean Bell, and Hynes doesn’t say anything; then, they walk, and he still doesn’t say anything about Bell’s killers. But he’s going to prosecute us for walking in the street in protest of the verdict. He needs to apologize, and the case should be dismissed against our legend, Ms. Olatunji.

“We will not accept that level of disrespect,” said Barron. “If Hynes has changed his mind, then he should apologize.”

After the press conference in response to another AmNews inquiry, Hynes’ office responded, “Everybody arrested in connection with the demonstrations surrounding the Sean Bell trial will be offered ACDs, which will result, after six months, in the full dismissal of the charges and sealing of the files.”

When the AmNews asked Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau’s office about the Sean Bell civil disobedience arrests in Manhattan, spokeswoman Alicia Maxey Greene replied, “It’s a pending case and we don’t comment on pending cases.” She added that Nicole Paultre-Bell (Sean Bell’s “widow,” Rev. Al Sharpton and Trent Benefield all had July return court dates to address the desk appearance tickets.)

“We want to commend Ms. Olatunji for taking part in this civil disobedience for Sean Bell,” said Barron. Her world-renowned husband, Babatunde Olatunji, taught and toured the world and left a cultural legacy tat contributed to learning and greater understanding within and without the Diaspora.

“He played his drums in the street and he stopped traffic,” Olatunji told the AmNews. “He was taking a stand against the atrocities being committed in Badagry, his hometown in Nigeria, because the people couldn’t fish or farm because of the way the oil industry was ruining their land.”

A New York resident for decades, Baba Olatunji would have demanded justice for Sean Bell, she said. “He would have been in the street with his drums.”

Barron concluded that he will celebrate “the beauty and the brilliance of Black women on Thursday, June 19 at his annual Juneteenth celebration at City Hall. This year he will be honoring Amy Olatunji. The event is free and open to the public. The festivities begin at 5:30 p.m.

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