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Mayor slams ethnic pitch

November 24, 1997

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani proved last week that he's the equal of Al Sharpton in exposing the fault lines between ethnic groups in this racially fractured town.

Just ask U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and the seven other black and Hispanic congressional members who attended Conyers' hearing on police brutality Tuesday.

Giuliani snubbed the hearing, which Conyers said was prompted by the Abner Louima brutality incident in Brooklyn's 70th Precinct on Aug. 9. The incident, in which cops allegedly shoved the handle of a toilet plunger up Louima's rectum in the precinct bathroom, drew national and international attention.

Giuliani's stated reason for not attending was that the hearing was "unauthorized." Translation: The Louima incident could haunt a man with national ambitions.

At Tuesday morning's session, relatives of a dozen people - all black, Hispanic or Asian - killed by New York City Police Department officers shared how painful the deaths of their loved ones has been. Many sobbed as they spoke.

Meanwhile, a lackey of Sonny Carson, the former civil-rights warhorse and felon who under Mayor David Dinkins led the black-inspired boycott of a Korean merchant that Dinkins inanely allowed to continue for nearly a year, repeatedly interrupted the testimony. He shut his yap only after a tongue-lashing from Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Then, Giuliani caught a break. That afternoon, Carson and his lackey, Asia Skakur, were somehow permitted to address the audience and spouted something about the "Semitic" media and "Jews . . . beating brothers to death."

Hearing of this, and of the failure of the congressional members seated nearby to condemn the remarks, the mayor saw a fastball coming right down Broadway and took it downtown. "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 . . . members of Congress . . . were too afraid to stand up to anti-Semitism," he bellowed.

Rounding third, the mayor added for good measure that none of the newspapers "had the courage to report it."

Rudy's home run routed the congressional members, who began blaming each other. "As soon as I heard it the anti-Semitic remark , I knew there was trouble," said a congressional staffer.

The staffer blamed Ron Daniels of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which organized the conference, for allowing Carson to take the podium. Daniels blamed Conyers and Rep. Major Owens, the Brooklyn Democrat.

Printable version"There was some discussion among the panel, initiated by Owens, that it would be an error not to include the strong opinions voiced by Carson," Daniels said. "Conyers heard that point of view and there was a consensus that it made sense."

Of seven congressional members at the hearing called by Newsday, five - Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn), Donald Payne (D-Newark), Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), Nydia Velazquez (D-Manhattan) and Donna Christian-Green (D-Virgin Islands) - maintained they'd heard nothing. Owens and Conyers didn't return calls.

Velazquez said she'd been seated next to Serrano as the anti-Semitic remarks were being made and told him, " I don't understand what that man is saying.' He was screaming, yelling and at some point I stopped listening. Serrano told me this is why he doesn't like to attend public hearings."

A day later, big Jewish guns were booming. The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman wrote Conyers that the ADL was "deeply disturbed by your silence in the face of openly anti-Semitic rhetoric expressed at your hearing . . . the highly charged nature of the issue of police brutality does not excuse the panel - nor you as its chair - from its duty to conduct hearings in a manner free of bigotry . . ."

Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Noach Dear wrote to Conyers: "I fear that a unique opportunity to engage in a serious dialogue was diminished, if not lost completely, when you as chairman gave anti-Semitism the floor. . . . I felt disappointment bordering on outrage when your entire panel fell silent as words meant to incite and offend were spoken."

And the names of Louima and those killed by police have not been spoken again.

Earth to N.Y. Times. A recent article in The New York Times was headlined "Fare Beating in the Subway Falls Off Under a Tougher Arrest Policy." Down in the third paragraph we learn: "The good news was tempered by the announcement that overall crime in the subways . . . increased 24 percent this October compared with October, 1996, the fourth monthly increase in a row."

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.