Protesters, police clash following funeral for black man killed by officers
NEW YORK (AP) – Furious protesters hurled bottles and clashed with police Saturday after the funeral for an unarmed black man shot to death by an undercover officer, the latest police shooting to inflame tensions between Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the minority community.
Police used batons to knock back bottles thrown outside a Brooklyn church as the funeral Mass ended. One officer was seen holding his head, wrapped in a bandage. In all, 23 police were injured, some suffering torn ligaments or broken bones, others had to have shards of glass rinsed from their eyes.
Police said 27 people were arrested on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to inciting a riot during the clash which included the burning of an American flag. They were expected to be arraigned on Sunday. Five civilians were injured, police said, but details of their conditions were not immediately released.
A miles-long procession of more than 3,000 protesters and mourners led by the Rev. Al Sharpton had followed a hearse carrying the body of 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond from a funeral home to Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in for the service.
Dorismond’s shooting March 16 was the third time in the past 13 months that an unarmed black man has been fatally shot by undercover officers.
Giuliani has been criticized for releasing information from Dorismond’s police record, including sealed juvenile files, and for not visiting Dorismond’s family.
As Dorismond’s coffin was carried inside, a few protesters surged forward and snatched the U.S. flag that had draped it, tore it to shreds and then set the pieces on fire.
”It’s our blood, it’s not cheap. We must let them know this must stop,” said Michel Eddy, a 26-year-old Haitian immigrant.
With car horns blaring, protesters chanted, knocked down police barricades, and many demanded Giuliani’s resignation.
A car driving the wrong way on a nearby street was plastered with banners, including one that read: ”If you shoot one of my children, I shoot five of you,” and others threatening Giuliani’s family.
Another protester walking through the crowded street shouted: ”Rudy, I’ll blow you up to kingdom come, cut you with a chain saw, and feed you to the dogs!”
As the two-hour service ended around 2 p.m., a group of unarmed community affairs police and uniformed officers outside the church began having increasing difficulty controlling the crowd. Within half an hour, about 25 officers in riot helmets carrying batons entered the crowd and were met by people throwing bottles and knocking down police barricades. The face-off with hundreds of protesters escalated quickly.
Giuliani issued a statement praising the restraint of officers involved in the confrontation.
”Unfortunately, when you allow demagogues to take over for political and divisive purposes, the American flag gets shredded and burned; steel barricades are hurled and bottles are thrown injuring police officers and civilians,” he said.
The Dorismond shooting has become a major issue in his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Hillary Clinton. The first lady said last week that the GOP mayor’s ”utter failure of leadership” was a sign that he couldn’t be trusted.
Giuliani has maintained that the news media are incapable of covering police shooting cases fairly, so he has a duty to emphasize the police point of view.
The mayhem on the street Saturday contrasted with the message of peace delivered during the funeral.
”We are not here to judge or condemn. We are here to weep with the family,” the Rev. Rollin Darbouze told about 1,000 mourners at Holy Cross.
Dorismond, a security guard and the son of Haitian singer Andre Dorismond, was shot after an officer conducting a drug sting allegedly asked him if he would sell marijuana. The two scuffled, backup officers arrived and one officer’s gun went off, killing Dorismond.
The officer whose gun went off, Anthony Vasquez, issued a statement Saturday, telling the Dorismonds: ”As a father and a son, I can only imagine the depth of your grief. Our prayers are with you.”
The shooting happened just two weeks after another undercover officer fatally shot an unarmed man in the Bronx near where Amadou Diallo was shot and killed in hail of 41 police bullets last year. The four officers in the Diallo case were acquitted last month.
What had started as a quiet family gathering Saturday grew into a loud protest march against police brutality.
Cathy Dumont, 26, a Haitian-born Brooklyn resident, compared Haiti’s decades of military rule with America’s democracy.
”Mrs. Dorismond took her son out of a military regime and brought him here because she thought it would be better and safer, but Giuliani and the way he’s empowered the police have proved her wrong,” she said.
More than an hour after the disturbance began, the crowd dispersed and unrest spread in random acts of violence in the Flatbush neighborhood where stores pulled down their shutters.