Sharpton Calls for New York City Police Summit

The Rev. Al Sharpton used Monday's holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. to call for a summit on police practices in light of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by officers.

"You have been tough on a lot of stuff," Sharpton told Gov. Eliot Spitzer, one of a roster of elected officials attending at a forum honoring King at Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters. "We need you tough on this."

Spitzer, who met earlier with the family and fiancee of the slain man, Sean Bell, promised to monitor the case.

"As Reverend Sharpton just said, I did meet with (fiancee Nicole Paultre-Bell) and the whole Bell family," Spitzer said. "And let's just say this: We all grieve with them. And there are no words that can be sufficient for the tragedy that you have gone through."

Spitzer said he would work with Sharpton and others to improve communication between law enforcers and the communities they serve. He did not specifically address Sharpton's call for a summit.

Bell, 23, was killed Nov. 25 outside a Queens topless bar where he was having a bachelor party. Five officers using semiautomatic pistols fired 50 rounds, killing Bell and injuring two of his friends as they sat in a car. Police have said they suspected the men were going to retrieve a gun to settle a dispute, but no weapon was recovered.

The three victims of the shooting, which sparked community outrage and led to protests, were black; the five New York Police Department officers were black and white. The officers have been placed on leave pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "The tragedy of Sean Bell was a terrible moment for New York and certainly for his family. It showed us that despite all the progress we've made in this city we really do have a long ways to go."

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 squeezed into Sharpton's Harlem headquarters to hear a lineup that also included Rep. Charles Rangel (news, bio, voting record), the newly minted chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee; Reps. Gregory Meeks (news, bio, voting record) and Nydia Velazquez (news, bio, voting record); hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons; state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo; Lt. Gov. David Paterson; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and teachers' union head Randi Weingarten.

Rangel, who holds the most powerful position in Congress that any black has ever held, said King made his ascent possible.

"When you see that gavel and you see bills coming out of the Ways and Means Committee, yes, it will be coming from the House of Representatives," he said. "But I want you to know that Martin Luther King is going to be on every page of every bill that comes out of that committee."

The slain civil rights leader's legacy was honored elsewhere in the city with music, speeches and protests.

Four people including the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for blocking the doors to the Sudan Mission to the United Nations, police said. They were demonstrating over the crisis in Darfur, where 200,000 people have died since rebels from the region's ethnic African community took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003.

Daughtry, who had announced that he would stage the civil disobedience demonstration, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Monday evening.

Eighth-graders from a Manhattan private school rallied against the war in Iraq at the Times Square military recruitment Center.

In the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, volunteers with the New York City Habitat for Humanity marked the holiday by building affordable houses.

Other volunteers served the needy at food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the city.