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Getting Killed For Living In Your American Skin

A little sidetrack here from the daily hockey goings on that do little to affect the course of our lives.

I recently read about this shooting in New York City and it got me upset big time.This is not, as you will read, a rare occurence. It has happened more than once. Why it is allowed to go on is nuts. The police are supposed to protect and serve. How they can unload their weapons without shots fired at them is unfathomable. How they are allowed to get away with it is ridiculous. This is murder in my eyes. Just because an officer wears a badge, it should give no justification for events like these, it's beyond simply fucking up!

New York Times reported on Sunday that 23 year old, Sean Bell, died under a hail of over 50 police bullets after leaving his bachelor party at a strip club in Queens. Apparently, a fender bender involving an undercover police vehicle precipitated the shooting.

Bell was supposed to be married the following day. His family had the sad news of informing the attendees that the wedding was off and a funeral was being arranged. Unthinkable!

An angry crowd later gather to demand why police officers killed an unarmed man on the day of his wedding, firing dozens of shots that also wounded two of the man's friends. Some called for the ouster of the city's police commissioner.

At a vigil and rally the day after 23-year-old Sean Bell was supposed to have married the mother of his two young children, a crowd led by the Rev. Al Sharpton shouted "No justice, no peace."

At one point, the crowd of a few hundred counted off to 50, the number of rounds fired.

"We cannot allow this to continue to happen," Sharpton said at the gathering outside Mary Immaculate Hospital, where one of the wounded men was in critical condition. "We've got to understand that all of us were in that car."

Some in the crowd called for the ouster of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, yelling "Kelly must go."

The story surely recalls events in February of 1999, when African immigrant Amadou Diallo was brutally killed in a hail of bullets on Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx-Soundview section of New York City. The 4 officers, members of the now-defunct Street Crimes Unit, fired 41 shots at the 23 yr old believing he was pulling a gun when Diallo was in fact reaching for his wallet. 41 shots! Think about it! Why 41 bullets were fired is a question with no good answer.

A national uproar ensued over what was obviouslya case of racial profiling and police brutaility.The four officers were eventually acquitted of any wrongdoing. A $61-million lawsuit filed by the yound man's parents was later settled for $3-million.

A number of artists wrote songs that decried the plight of this young man, one of the most memorable being "American Skin (41 Shots)" by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen sang, outraging police organisations in New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and sections of the media.New York's State Fraternal Order of Police, Bob Lucente, promptly bestowed the 'floating fag' tag upon the singer when he debuted the song live in Atlanta, rhyming the lines "41 shots/Kill a fuckin' cop".

A week later, Springsteen appeared at Madison Square Garden for a sold out 10 date stand and the NYC police department refused to provide him any escort. As he played the song nightly, off duty police hired as garden security, gave Springsteen the finger from the edge of the stage during each performance. Springsteen never relented in performing the song on the remainder of the stand and the tour, going so far as to release it on CD and DVD versions of the "Live in NYC" concerts. For his part, Springsteen adressed the songs controversy by simply stating the track attempts to understand the human dilema involved in the shooting by retelling the events, then placing it's context in the eyes of a mother preparing her son for school, while providing him with a lesson on how to react when approached by police.

If all this leaves you untouched, check your pulse and heart.

41 shots....and we'll take that ride / 'cross this bloody river / to the other side / 41 shots.... cut through the night / you're kneeling over his body in the vestibule / praying for his life

Is it a gun? / Is it a knife? / Is it a wallet? / This is your life

It ain't no secret / No secret my friend

You can get killed just for living in your American skin

41 shots.... Lena gets her son ready for school / she says "on these streets, Charles / you've got to understand the rules / if an officer stops you / promise me, you'll always be polite / that you'll never ever run away / promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight"

Is it a gun?.... You can get killed just for living in your American skin

Is it a gun? / is it a knife? / is it in your heart / is it in your eyes / It ain't no secret /41 shots... and we'll take that ride / 'cross this bloody river / to the other side / 41 shots... got my boots caked in this mud / we're baptized in these waters / and in each other's blood

Is it a gun? / is it a knife? / is it a wallet? / this is your life

It ain't no secret / no secret my friend

You can get killed just for living in your American skin