Grieving for Sean Bell

Rise up and let your grief shake down the brittle walls of the hollow hearts of Justice Arthur Cooperman, who handed down the decision.

By Adrienne Maree Brown Apr 25, 2008

I was in college in New York when Amadou Diallo was murdered by the police. I remember the outrage and fear that gripped the city at that point as if it were yesterday. I remember being one of many students who joined with organizers, lawyers, politicians and celebrities at that time to take action, to respond, to demand justice. We started a Coalition for Police Reform on our campus, we were consumed in our responding. I remember how it felt when tnews hit that all the officers had been acquitted: powerless, helpless, small. There are shameful moments for a borough that resonate as shameful moments for a city, and for a nation. What kind of land must this be? I have often looked back at that period of time, the fact that justice failed on multiple levels, as a rock bottom of hopelessness. This morning I was woken up with tnews that Sean Bell’s killers were acquitted. I need more than a moment of silence as the same set of emotions floods through my mind and my heart. These are old pathways: indignation, rage, fear. There are shameful moments for a nation that resonate for an era. This is our dark age. We forget. We go about our daily lives and there is injustice, all the time, all the time everywhere. But we forget that the only way those daily injustices can continue is because of comprehensive corruption. We forget the totality of our opposition, of our oppression. We strategize, we critique and vision and rally support, we work on many levels. We protest as much as possible, and we create alternatives, we create peace zones, we dream of the world we want, we build movements, we work tirelessly. Then there are days like this when we march our funeral march with our signs of outrage, and we mourn, and we grieve. Rise up and let your grief shake down the brittle walls of the hollow heart of Justice Arthur Cooperman, who handed down the decision. Assistant DA Charles A. Testagrossa said in his closing argument: “We ask police to risk their lives to protect ours, not to risk our lives to protect their own.” There are days when we are educated on how words can mean so many different things. So we wonder what it means to protect in a world where black people can’t trust the police and can’t trust each other beyond any uniform. And then there are days like these…these are the days when we remember.