Demonstrators in New York protest police brutality
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August 29, 1997
Web posted at: 9:09 p.m. EDT (0109 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Waving toilet plungers and signs, an estimated 7,000 demonstrators marched on City Hall Friday to stage a peaceful protest against police brutality.
The march, called "Day of Outrage Against Police Brutality and Harassment," shut down the Brooklyn Bridge and part of Broadway as demonstrators descended on lower Manhattan. It was organized by the Haitian community in the aftermath of the alleged police torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
The crowd denounced crime-busting Mayor Rudy Giuliani as "Brutaliani" and waved signs saying "Giuliani Must Go!"
"We're here to make sure the Louima family gets justice," said DeLacy Davis, an East Orange, New Jersey, police officer. "We're here to send a message to America that people of color will not sit idly by when someone is brutalized."
"We're looking for justice," said the Rev. Philius Nicholas, Louima's uncle. "Justice for Abner Louima and justice for all people, no matter what race or creed, who have suffered from police brutality."
Hundreds of police officers in riot gear stood around City
Hall during the protest, but the demonstrators were well-behaved and there were no reports of arrests.
Louima recovering from surgery
Prosecutors say Louima was beaten and sodomized with a stick -- perhaps a toilet plunger handle -- in a Brooklyn station house bathroom. Four white police officers have been charged in what prosecutors say was a racially motivated attack.
Louima suffered a ruptured bladder and colon when a stick was allegedly shoved into his rectum during the attack. It was then jammed into his mouth, prosecutors say, breaking several of his teeth.
Louima, 30, was "resting comfortably" Friday in the surgical
intensive care unit at Brooklyn Hospital where he has been hospitalized since August 9. Louima underwent surgery Thursday for a bowel obstruction that developed after earlier surgery to repair his injuries.
He was reported as alert and interested in the progress of the march, according to family physician Dr. Jean Claude Compas.
The case of Louima, who is black, has become a rallying cry for those who contend police are abusive, particularly to minorities. Federal officials have begun their own investigation into whether Louima's civil rights were violated.
'Criminals, Perverts, Racists'
"The problem is the police think they are the only ones that
count -- no one else," said demonstrator Jean Bernard, a toilet plunger in one hand and a Haitian flag in the other.
"New Yorkers want safer streets," said Tatiana Wah, a spokeswoman for the Haitian-American Alliance, which helped organize the march. But, she said, "We won't tolerate police brutality and harassment in order to get to these safe streets."
Some marchers held signs reading "Justice for All Victims."
Others mocked a police campaign dubbed "Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect" with placards that said "Criminals, Perverts, Racists."
"Crime is going down everywhere but in the New York City Police Department," said mayoral candidate and civil rights activist Al Sharpton.
Dr. Joseph Baptiste, chairman of the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians, came from Washington with several dozen followers.
"When something happens, we want to show unity," Baptiste said. "Hopefully the mayor's office will hear our cry for justice. We hope that police will recruit more minorities to reflect the community."
Louima's attorneys to ask $465 million
Giuliani, who is up for re-election in November, has rejected
claims that stepped-up policing has encouraged police
brutality, especially against minorities. He has called the Louima case an isolated instance involving bad cops.
Louima has filed a $55 million civil suit against the city, but his attorneys say they will amend that and ask for $465 million.
Correspondents Peg Tyre and Jonathan Karl and The Associated Press contributed to this report.