Date: Thu, 2 Sep 1999 14:49:05 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: RIGHTS-US: Black Nationalists Stir Tension in New York
Article: 74656
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 426.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS-US: Black Nationalists Stir Tension in New York **
** Written 9:07 PM Sep 1, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Black Nationalists Stir Tension in New York

By Farhan Haq and Kerstin Marx, InterPress Service, 1 September 1999

NEW YORK, Sep 1 (IPS)—African American militants are planning to march Saturday in the Manhatten's famous Harlem area, just one year after a similar demonstration ended in a brief clash with police that sparked racial tensions.

Judge Denny Chin of the US Second District Court in Manhattan ruled Tuesday that New York officials had to allow black nationalist leader Khalid Abdul Muhammad and his followers to hold a Million Youth March in Harlem for four hours.

On the one hand, Chin's ruling—which the city's lawyers planned to appeal—gave victory to civil rights advocates who worried that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had refused to allow the march because he disagreed with Muhammad's extremist views.

On the other, many black leaders as well as whites were equally concerned that Muhammad could use the march—as he did last year - as a platform to voice racist views against whites, particularly Jews.

Several officials, including Harlem's Congressional representative, Charles Rangel, urged African Americans not to attend the weekend rally. One black official, City Councilman William Perkins, claimed he was assaulted and threatened by Muhammad's followers for speaking out against the march.

Michael Hess, the city's top attorney—criticised Chin's ruling saying that no event should be sanctioned that was really a hate-violence march. But Roger Wareham, attorney for the marchers, countered that the rally's organisers were ready to cooperate with the police to ensure a peaceful event, and reiterated the marchers' rights to demonstrate.

That argument was shared by civil-rights experts who argued that, although Muhammad and his organisation, the New Black Panther Party, may express distasteful views, the first amendment to the US Constition guarantees their right to voice them.

Bill Batson, assistant director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, argued that, after the courts allowed last year's march, there really shouldn't have been any controversy.

(Last year's) ruling made clear that (the organisers') first amendment right to hold the march and rally is constitutionally protected, he said.

Nevertheless, city leaders like Giuliani and Rangel—who rarely agree on city affairs—have been wary of this year's march, given that last year's event ended in chaos and that Muhammad has stepped up his racial rhetoric.

Muhammad, who was expelled from the radical Nation of Islam organisation for his extremist views, has regularly attacked Jews, Catholics and homosexuals in his public speeches. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan dismissed him after a 1993 speech in which he referred to Jews as bloodsuckers.

In last year's speech, cited by city officials as one of the reasons to deny a march permit this year, Muhammad announced, Death to every oppressor, black, white or Chinese, or whoever won't stand up to lead us in the new millennium, the right way we need to be taken care of. Death to them!

However, Malik Zulu Shabazz, national spokesman for the Million Youth March as well as last year's events, argued that Giuliani and the police had tried to spread false information about the event in an effort to portray it as violent.

After last year's Million Youth March, it would be clear how the police lied... Shabazz said.

Police last year declared they would be unable to provide security for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend the march but, in the end, only 6,000 people turned up—an ironic development for an event dubbed the Million Youth March.

Shabazz claimed that last year's rally had been peaceful until authorities allegedly used excessive force to shut down the march promptly at 4:00 p.m., when it was scheduled to end.

When the cutoff time arrived, he said, officers in riot gear approached the stage while others on horsebacks and motorcycles occupied the area. In response, some of the attendees started a melee which left at least 30 people injured, including six police officers.

Six people were charged with attempted assaults and reckless endangerment but a grand jury refused to indict anyone for the violence.

According to Shabazz, the police had used fascist tactics against the marchers by putting up barricades around the area where the event took place, closing down subway lines and deploying an excessive number of officers.

Judge Chin appeared to agree, disputing Hess's contention that last year's even had been attended by a relatively normal police presence and yet violent clashes had resulted. Certainly some of (the police presence) appears excessive—helicopters swooping in at 4 o'clock, Chin said.

The judge's ruling was almost a repeat of the court's ruling last year when it allowed the march to proceed despite Giuliani's refusal to grant a permit.

At that time, the courts said New York officials had been breathtaking in their lack of standards over what the appropriate conditions were to approve or deny a march petition.

Similarly, this year, regardless of his virulent views, Khalid Abdul Muhammad can now expect a four-hour platform to espouse his views in Harlem—even despite the city's plan to appeal Chin's ruling.