Supporters of Sean Bell braved the cold for the annual overnight vigil in Queens Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, exactly nine years after he was killed by cops hours before his wedding.
His fiance, Nicole Paultre-Bell, organizes the vigil, held every year at Sean Bell Way and 94th Avenue, the location where Bell was gunned down.
A few dozen gatherers lit candles and circled together to exchange ideas and hear the thoughts of supporters, friends and family members on the tragedy, other police killings and what we need to do as a community and race to stay alive.
“We have to come together and end this fight. Not all police officers are bad. You just have to know your rights,” Valerie Bell, Bell’s mother, told the crowd.
“When you get pulled over by the police, learn how to yield to that authority so you can walk away, and then we can fight for you. Learn to survive that initial contact,” stated another supporter.
Bell, who was 23 yearS old at the time of his death, was killed by plainclothes police officers Nov. 25, 2006. A total of 50 shots were fired at his car, killing him and wounding two of his friends. The detectives involved in the shooting were acquitted.
“People are not forgetting what happened,” stated Valerie Bell. “Things take time. You hear young people being killed by police officers all the time for reasons only God knows, but the only way change can come about is if people have a voice and put things in writing.”
Bell, who works with the Justice Committee, was able to get an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo assigning a special prosecutor to handle all cases of police killings.
“When we all come together in decency and order, they cannot label us as they do,” said Bell. “There needs to be a change in police procedure. It’s unbelievable how they treat us.”
Bell will be releasing a book, “Just 23: Thoughts From a Mother in Spoken Word,” co-authored by Kisha Walker, next year in which she speaks about her son and how she really felt around the time of his death. The book will be available in print and online.