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Page last updated at 23:06 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 00:06 UK

Rally over NYC police acquittals

Sean Bell's widow, Nicole Paultre Bell, speaks as Reverend Al Sharpton looks on, on Saturday 26 April 2008 in New York
Sean Bell's fiance said the verdict was like killing him all over again

Hundreds of people have held a protest in New York over the decision to clear three police officers of all charges in the killing of an unarmed black man.

Sean Bell, 23, died in a barrage of 50 police bullets as he left a strip club with two friends, hours before he was due to be married in November 2006.

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton told crowds in Harlem that the police had no right to shoot unarmed citizens.

He called for a campaign of civil disobedience against the verdict.

This city is going to deal with the blood of Sean Bell
Al Sharpton

Mr Sharpton told the rally they would hold a meeting next week to plan the day when they would "close this city down".

Hundreds of people who packed the streetfront hall of his National Action Network offices chanted in response: "Shut it down!"

"We strategically know how to stop the city so people stand still and realise that you do not have the right to shoot down unarmed, innocent civilians," Mr Sharpton said.

"This city is going to deal with the blood of Sean Bell."

Mr Sharpton, who was joined by the dead man's family, said: "They never accused Sean Bell of doing anything. Then why is he dead?"

(Left to right) Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper

Criticising the verdict, Mr Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell, said: "The justice system let me down... They killed Sean all over again. That's what it felt like to us."

She spoke out a day after storming out of the packed courtroom as the three officers - two of whom are black - were cleared.

The case had generated accusations of police racism and brutality, and there were angry protests outside the court.

Mr Bell and two friends were apparently trying to drive away from the Kalua club in the suburb of Queens when the shooting occurred.

He was killed and his friends both seriously injured.

One of the officers said he had followed the trio to their car because he believed they were going to carry out a drive-by shooting. No gun was found in the car.




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