World

Al Sharpton to face trial for role in Sean Bell rallies

Rev. Al Sharpton, the colourful U.S. politician and civil rights activist, will go on trial next month for helping plan a series of peaceful protests across New York City in May that blocked traffic at intersections in Manhattan.

Rev. Al Sharpton, the colourful U.S. politician and civil rights activist, will go on trial next month for helping plan a series of peaceful protests across New York City in May that blocked traffic at intersections in Manhattan.

A Manhattan judge on Wednesday set a court date of Oct. 6 for Sharpton and his co-defendants.

About 200 demonstrators were arrested during the rallies, but charges were dismissed against all but Sharpton's and eight others.

Sharpton, who has rejected several offers of plea bargains, says he wants to go to trial on charges of disorderly conduct.

"Every time they bring me back, it further exposes the disparity of justice in this city," he said Wednesday. 

The demonstrations were in response to acquittals the prior month of three New York police officers for their role in the shooting death of Sean Bell. Bell, unarmed, was gunned down by police in the early morning of Nov. 25, 2006, outside a nightclub in the borough of Queens. He was to be married later that day.

The case became a high-profile lightning rod, similar to the 1999 Amadou Diallo shooting, for rancour about the treatment of people of colour by New York City police.

Sharpton, a leading figure among New York's black population, remained outspoken throughout the officers' trial and counselled Bell's family. Immediately after the acquittal came down, he called for street rallies and urged protesters to get arrested.

Less than two weeks later, Sharpton and his National Action Network co-ordinated the demonstrations for which he now faces charges.