Black leaders are showing their support for Rev. Al Sharpton as news emerges that an NYPD informant allegedly spied on the civil rights leader in the aftermath of Sean Bell’s 2008 killing by police officers in Queens.
According to reporter Len Levitt, the police-hired informant provided the New York police department with “a detailed description of NAN's protest plans, including the names of prominent African-Americans set to participate, the locations where protestors would gather and the number of demonstrators who would offer themselves up for arrest.”
"The NYPD's spying actions are an intolerable abuse by law enforcement, and remind us of the bad days when J. Edgar Hoover recklessly spied on Dr. King and other civil rights leaders in the 1960s,” Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said. “It’s time for [the] NYPD to disclose the full extent and nature of its spying operation on all civil rights organizations. We will not stand for a return to this abuse of process in the 21st Century."
Russell Simmons also expressed his concerns in the aftermath of the report.
"I am deeply concerned about the reports that the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network were spied on by the NYPD. It is troubling to think that those who are ordered to protect us are in fact working against us,” he said. “After reports that the NYPD spied on members of the Muslim community and on Occupy Wall Street and now Rev. Sharpton, we are again demanding that this type of behavior by our police department stop."
The National Action Network says that the actions were a blatant attempt to discredit Rev. Sharpton with malicious and defamatory falsities, including that he is a closeted homosexual. In response, the organization and its Board of Directors are demanding Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly investigate the allegation and give a public response as to why the NYPD and NYPD Intelligence Division had an informant assigned to Sharpton.
"Given the serious nature of the allegations and the history out which they arise, there is no acceptable response but for the city and the police department to show us all their cards. Our community must be certain that the people we count on to enforce the law are not breaking it," said NAACP President Ben Jealous.
Other leaders who have publically expressed their outrage include Rainbow PUSH Coalition President Jesse Jackson, Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation & Black Women's Roundtable and Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church.
The National Action Network says they are weighing all legal options, including whether there was a violation of Federal Consent Decrees.
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(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)