As Senator-designee Kirsten Gillibrand left Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network office in Harlem around noon on Saturday, she was questioned by an enraged constituent asking about the racially charged police shooting cases involving Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and Oscar Grant. The man wanted her to state for the record that in each case the crime was murder. Gillibrand was taken aback, but answered, “I think each of the cases were terrible instances of things we need to right in our community, and I think that your concern and your anger and your outrage is valid, important, and just.”
Later, away from most reporters and constituents, the man accosted Gillibrand again. This time, Al Sharpton himself physically yanked the man away from her. “I think you’re a cop,” said Sharpton, roughly pushing the man back inside the building. “And I think you’re full of shit.”
Later, Sharpton explained why he’d been so rough with the man. “I needed to get him inside,” Sharpton said, “I said to him, ‘She just met with the family, and she cannot prejudice a federal investigation if they ask her to look into it.’” He added that Gillibrand pledged to the Bell family that, once she was confirmed as the junior senator from New York, she would make inquiries into the progress of the federal investigation.
But the man trying to get her to call the case “murder” struck up a very protective instinct, and reminded Sharpton of encounters with undercover police officers. “If she said it, then they could say she was up here prejudicing the federal investigation and therefore it should be stopped,” said Sharpton. “That’s the game they play. They get a federal official to prejudice a federal investigation, and they can say, ‘Oh it’s got to be moved out of New York’ — we went through this with Diallo.”
Other than that, Sharpton said to color him impressed with Gillibrand. “She did a good job for a first outing,” he said. “I never would have guessed that she’d come off as well. I was impressed with how open she was. She started slow, but at no point was she heckled or anything. Even the nut outside just wanted her to say ‘murder.’ He thought she did great.”
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