Sean Bell Shooting: Police Raids Test Delicate Balance Sought by Mayor, African-American Leaders

By: Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League

The recent tragic police shooting of 23-year-old Sean Bell near a Queens strip club on
the morning of his wedding gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg a golden opportunity to
show off his race-relations skills and for Rev. Al Sharpton to prove he could reach out
across the aisle in hopes of defusing a potentially explosive situation.

Sharpton, a veteran of previous police-conduct incidents, rose to the occasion within
hours of the tragedy, emerging as official point person for the Bell family. He
immediately consoled the victims and their family and friends, arranged two news
conferences, planned a community rally and courted the mayor, who in his last election
did well with middle-class minority voters around the neighborhood where the shooting
The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page described Sharpton as a natural choice to take
the leadership role in this situation. "Now, just ask yourself: If police shot your son to
death before his wedding and wounded two friends after firing 50 shots into their car
and there was no gun found in their car, whom would you call?" he wrote recently.

Unlike his predecessors, Bloomberg decided to read from a different playbook than his
some of his predecessors

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