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Nicole Paultre-Bell was led away in handcuffs outside police headquarters in Manhattan Wednesday as throngs of peaceful protesters unleashed their anger over the acquittal of the three detectives who shot her fianc outside a Jamaica club.
Hundreds of activists gathered at six spots in Manhattan and Brooklyn to speak out against the April 25 acquittals of Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper on manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in the Nov. 25, 2006 shooting of Bell, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who organized the civil disobedience movement, led the rally at 1 Police Plaza with Bell's parents, Benefield, Guzman, and Paultre-Bell, who was set to walk down the aisle with the Rockaway native on the morning he was killed in a hail of 50-bullets.
"We will fight till justice is served," said Shelby Harper Hankerson, Paultre-Bell's sister.
Sharpton and his entourage prayed silently in front of police headquarters around 4 p.m. and then proceeded to the Brooklyn Bridge with the shouting protesters. As they neared the foot of the bridge, the crowd repeatedly counted up to 50 and jeered at the massive police presence that was keeping the peace.
The rally outside police headquarters and the five other locations stuck to Sharpton's mandate to remain peaceful. There were few violent incidents.
At the entrance to the bridge, the police stopped Sharpton's crowd at the foot and ordered them to get off the street.
"You are unlawfully obstructing traffic," Lt. John Wolf said through his megaphone.
Despite three warnings from the authorities, Sharpton and Bell's family did not budge and officers placed plastic handcuffs on each of the 60 protesters starting with the outspoken reverend. As the officers took Paultre-Bell, her parents, Benefield and Guzman into police vans and trucks, their supporters cheered and clapped.
"I feel great and proud," said Ebony Browning, Guzman's fiance. "He wants to do justice."
Police said more than 200 people at the six rally spots were arrested. Some of the demonstrators who were arrested had signed up with attorneys who were on hand before they took part in the protests.
Bell's parents were not taken into custody.
The criminal trial against the detectives ended nearly two weeks ago, but the legal woes for the detectives are far from over. The federal government is considering trying the detectives on civil rights violations, and Paultre-Bell, Benefield and Guzman have filed a $50-million civil negligence lawsuit against the officers.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) was expected to hold a special hearing in Manhattan Monday to further investigate whether or not the federal government would pursue the case. Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino met with Conyers in Washington Wednesday to make a plea to the federal government not to try the detectives.
Gov. David Paterson was set to meet privately with Sharpton and Bell's family Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for the activist.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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