February 7 - There were about thirty protesters in the park when I arrived. The rest of them were crowded around "The Pen," as the media area is now known. Al's parade was coming out of the courthouse, once again traveling just the right speed to give the media a good video clip.
He approached the mikes and talked about the morning's testimony, delighted the trial was turning against the cops. (That's not surprising, considering that the prosecution is still presenting their case.) He spoke for three or four minutes, then answered a few questions from the press before proceeding to the park. Most of the observers outside The Pen followed him.
A short, chunky woman then approached the microphones and told the story of her son, a cop who had been killed in the line of duty three years ago. She was there in support of the officers on trial, and said she'd be proud to have any of them as sons. Her nervousness in front of the cameras and the lack of polish in her presentation was refreshing after Al's slick performance.
Meanwhile Al and his entourage had moved to the park and were leading the protesters in a round of "We Shall Overcome." I counted 75 people in the circle, holding hands, and about ten TV cameras taping the proceedings. One of Al's sidekicks led a prayer, which said, in essence, "Dear Lord, give us justice by frying these honky cops."
Once again his showmanship skills were on display. He was more theatrical for the park crowd than the press, and the moment he got a laugh from the crowed he stopped talking and left the stage without another word. He's mastered those two rules of showbiz.
It was thirty eight degrees outside, with only the slightest trace of wind; a mild and pleasant winter day. Forecasters are predicting much colder temperatures tomorrow. It should be interesting to see how many protesters show up when the weather gets nasty.
February 8 - Nothing. Nobody. Nada. Zip. There were four people standing around talking in the protest area, but that was it. According to one of the cops standing watch no one had been there all day. Several of the NYC news trucks are gone, and only half of those left bothered to set up the satellite dishes on their roofs. The Pen was nearly abandoned - one small group of people stood around one camera. A dozen empty tripods remained in place, and so did the microphones, but the cameras and their operators were gone. There were no protesters and no sign of Big Al's Smarmy Circus Show.
This should be an important day in the trial. The coroner is scheduled to testify, and his testimony as to the angle of the bullets could make or break the officer's defense. If Diallo was hit after he fell the cops are toast.
It wasn't even that cold. It wasn't nearly as warm as yesterday, and the temperature was low, but the wind, which is what really makes the cold unbearable, was scarce and well behaved. Still, the trivial difference in the weather was enough to keep the protesters home. Shouldn't outrage be made of sterner stuff?
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© 2000 Dave Hitt
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