'As much as things change, the more they stay the same,' DJ Drama says of acquitted police detectives.
Unadulterated anger, confusion but certainly not shock are some of the feelings that members of the hip-hop community have expressed about the verdict in the Sean Bell case. Three New York police detectives were acquitted Friday morning (April 25) of any wrongdoing in the Bell case. Bell was shot 50 times by the cops, who claim they thought he had gun after leaving his bachelor party in Queens. Investigations proved he was unarmed.
"This is just another example that the justice system in America views a black life as worthless," Ice Cube bluntly fumed in a statement.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that shooting an innocent, unarmed man 50-plus times is an excessive use of force," Chamillionaire said. "... I'm sure a lot of people are as disappointed with this verdict as I am. It scares me to know what type of power is given to people who are supposed to be protecting us from harm. It seems like they are all just protecting themselves. The verdict sends a terrible message to people across the nation who already don't have faith in the law or our justice system. It will be hard for people to see this as anything other than a case of police protection. Our prayers go out to the family and friends of Sean Bell."
"I don't know what implications a guilty or not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell case has on our society," Russell Simmons said in a statement released to MTV News on Friday. "I only know for certain that we need more sensitivity training as part of the police curriculum. I also believe a more intimate dialogue must be promoted between police and communities. This process could change the perception by some in the 'hood who view the police presence as an occupying force when they could or should see them as a security force working for the people."
"The verdict is almost as tragic as the incident," UGK's Bun B said. "We've already lost [a] life, and now we've got a loss of justice and loss of reciprocation for what's happened. And it cuts you on so many levels."
Bun insisted that the law has to change. "Some kind of legislation that holds police more accountable [is needed]," he said. " ... I would love to see the Sean Bell bill passed, you know what I'm saying? Something in his name. Let's not mar his memory with violence. ... I feel like people should be upset. They should be mad, but that's what they expect for us to do with our anger. That's what they expect us to do with our energy, is to put it back out and to take their negative energy and turn it into something even more negative. We gotta take that sh-- and do it into something positive for this dude, because ... Sean Bell could've been anybody, literally. Sean Bell wasn't a celebrity. He wasn't an athlete. ... He was just a man trying to take care of his family, trying to do his thing, just do him. This could be anybody. Any man."
DJ Drama said the Bell case is just one more instance of injustice, and he wasn't surprised by the outcome at all. He was almost expecting it.
"I almost had a feeling of how the outcome is gonna be," Drama said Friday in Atlanta. "To wake up and see that — as much as things change, the more they stay the same. You look at this country on one hand, you have a black man and a woman running for president. Then you look at the justice system, and every cop in the Sean Bell case getting acquitted. We got a lot of work to do. The struggle never ends. It affects all of us. Anybody with a voice, you gotta use your voice and speak on it when you see injustice. That's what I think it is: injustice."
"I just got sick, man," Bun B agreed. "You can't even be surprised, 'cause it's not like this hasn't happened before. It just knocks the wind out of you. For one, I'm like, 'Jesus Christ, so the wife and family get nothing.' Of course, they get the appeal of the verdict or whatever, but it's disgusting, to be honest."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who called the verdict an "abortion of justice," is planning a protest rally in Harlem on Saturday morning alongside Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre-Bell, and victims Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. On Friday, MTV News caught up with Sharpton and the victims' lawyers.
"I think that we need a cross-section of groups to come together," Sharpton said from his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. "We need to sit down immediately and plan a strategy and make it international, with the goals being a structural change in policing. I believe we can get to the federal government. Then we're going to wait again for another trial. There's something wrong with the law, and we must change that."
Lawyers for the victims' families echoed Sharpton's statements. "We feel as though justice was snatched out of our hands," said attorney Michael Hardy. " ... It's just hard to believe that we can live in a city where several years ago, Amadou Diallo could be shot at 41 times and no one is responsible, and now you can be shot at 50 times with no justification and no one's held accountable for that."
Meanwhile, the hip-hop community will continue to speak out against the case as well. Some are even venting their frustrations in the studio.
"The song is called 'Get Your Issue,' " Bun B said of one of his recent recordings. "It's talking about police brutality in the 'hood and how many brothers over the past years have gone down. It's just really been ugly ... but New York police have been out of line for a long time.
"I don't really know if they're gonna wanna listen to music right now," he added about the Bell family. "But [I made the song] just so they know that people do care. I don't know Sean. I've never met him or seen him before, but he's a black man. He was a human being. He was a husband and a father. I relate to that on all levels, you know what I'm saying?"
Mobb Deep's Prodigy raps about the infamous case on his album H.N.I.C., Pt. 2, which was released Tuesday: "I only lie to the police/ On the real/ New York pricks and di--s/ Know the deal/ They wanna do the kid/ Like my n---a Sean Bell/ F--- that, it be a racist cop/ Burial with the bagpipe music."
Before ending his press conference, Sharpton told a packed room of protesters they had "lost a round, but the fight was still on."