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Rudy reopens hearing battle

November 20, 1997

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani yesterday seized on an anti-Semitic remark, and the failure of black and Hispanic members of Congress to condemn it, to discredit a controversial hearing on police brutality that he had refused to attend.

The hearing, held Tuesday at Brooklyn's Medgar Evers College, brought together family members of a dozen victims - one as young as 13 - who died at the hands of the city Police Department.

One by one, relatives shared how painful the deaths of their loved ones has been, often breaking into sobs as they spoke.

"I think I made the right decision in not going to that whatever you call it," Giuliani said yesterday of the hearing held by Rep. John Conyers a Michigan Democrat, and attended by seven other members of Congress and an overflow crowd approaching 1,000.

"To have members of Congress sit there and have a witness say that Jews beat blacks and not object to it, to refer to Sonny Carson in words of praise and invite him as a witness says to me this was as I thought from the very beginning a one-sided and rather unfortunate political rally by members of Congress too afraid to stand up to anti-Semitism, to bigotry."

He also criticized the city's newspapers, none of which, he said "had the courage to report it."

Actually, it was not Carson - a convicted felon and the leader of a year-long boycott of a Korean grocery store in 1990 that became a political liability for then Mayor David Dinkins - who made the anti-Semitic remark.

A Conyers staffer who heard it attributed it to an unidentified Carson goon who had earlier attempted to disrupt the hearings and was invited to the podium late in the day. "He blamed the Semitic' media for not covering the issue of police brutality" the staff said.

A reporter who heard remarks said the man also referred to "Jews beating blacks." He said that the members of Congress were present when the speaker made those remarks.

Printable versionRon Daniels, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which organized the day-long conference, said that "at a meeting of this nature, hundreds of people attend" and that "nobody's testimony was pre-cleared. We could not control what 50 or 60 people said."

Daniels said at the hearing's open forum, which began in the afternoon, "There was some discussion among the panel initiated by Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens that it would be an error not to include the strong opinions voiced by Carson. Conyers heard that point of view and there was a consensus that it made sense."

Neither Owens nor Conyers returned telephone calls to their congressional offices yesterday. All the other congressional members who attended the meeting and were contacted by Newsday said they did not hear the anti-Semitic remarks.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn) said, "I wasn't there when it occurred. Had I been I would have responded. I heard about it from a staff person for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. Nydia had left too." Velazquez did not return a call from Newsday.

Congressman Jose Serrano of the Bronx said, "I personally didn't hear it."

Congressman Donald Payne of Newark said, "I was in and out. I don't remember hearing it. If it happened, it was unfortunate. There is no place for hating.

"But I am shocked that if this is the only conclusion that Mayor Giuliani sees from this hearing, then it is an affront to those eight members of Congress and for those hundreds of people who came before it to speak."

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.