Civil Rights Activist Al Sharpton Declines Invitation to Slain Officer’s Funeral

Rev Al. Sharpton, courtesy of National Action Network.

Rev Al. Sharpton, courtesy of National Action Network.

When it was announced that the Rev. Al Sharpton would deliver the eulogy at slain police officer, Randolph Holder’s funeral, many were taken aback as Sharpton has long been viewed as anti-police.

Sharpton, a very prominent face of the black civil rights movement has lead countless marches and protests against police brutality all across the nation. For every high profile crime involving police and unarmed black men, Sharpton has been front and center calling for justice denouncing police for discriminating against minorities.

However according to the Daily News, Sharpton said he accepted the invitation from Holder’s father to speak at the funeral, with the hopes of unifying the police and community. “We are not anti-police, we are anti-police brutality” Sharpton is quoted as saying.

Many did not share his sentiments and viewed Sharpton’s plan to visit the slain cops funeral as ironic, as many consider him to be “a police basher.”

President of the Sergeant Benevolent’s Association, Ed Mullins said to the Daily News, “Sharpton is a divider. Maybe the family doesn’t understand his history with the NYPD. The city is divided because of people like Sharpton.”

And, in a New York Post article, Holder’s fiancee, Mary Muhammad said” He [Holder] didn’t like [Sharpton]. He wasn’t a fan. So I don’t know why [Sharpton] is speaking,’’

Following the backlash, Sharpton wrote a public letter to Holder’s Father announcing that he would back out of speaking at the funeral.

“I thought my coming might give a sense of unity in the city,” Sharpton said.”It is clear though after reading several articles that some union leaders and some others want to turn your and your pastor’s noble efforts into some kind of confrontation or sideshow and not keep focused on the brutal, senseless murder of your son. I refuse, despite my strong feelings on police issues, to be part of anything that would marginalize and take away from the focus of this city and nation mourning your son.”

The funeral, held at Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Queens, was attended by thousands of mourners and the eulogy was, instead, delivered by police commissioner, Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill di Blasio.

Holder was shot and killed on Tuesday October 20th when a gunman opened fire on him and his partner, following an attempted robbery.

It is worth noting however that on that same weekend, Nov. 1, Sharpton spoke at the funeral for Corey Jones in Florida, calling for reform and an end to police brutality. Jones, who was shot and killed by a plain clothes officer while waiting for roadside assistance, is one of the latest in a string of high profile cases in the media of unarmed black men that were killed by police.

Financial Woes for Historic Black Church in Harlem

Rev Calvin Butts (courtesy of abyssinian.org)

Harlem’s most influential black church, Abyssinian Baptist Church, lost $3.1 million in funding, late September, after it failed to submit three years’ worth of tax documents to the Mayor’s office, according to published reports.

Pastor of the church, Rev Calvin Butts, confirmed to the Daily News that they had not filed taxes since 2011 as the church has been struggling financially for a few years. According to Butts there have been missed payrolls and employee layoffs due to their grave financial struggles.

Butts said the financial mismanagement is due to bad leadership, funds were misspent and audits were not properly conducted.

Abyssinian Development Corporation, which is the social service department of the church, manages and operates many services in Harlem. This including homeless shelters, senior citizen shelters and apartment buildings as well as it funds two public schools and runs after school programs. The financial loss could significantly affect the community as much of the community depends on the services the church provides.

Then to add to their already dire financial circumstance, Amsterdam News reported last Wednesday that the church is being sued by non profit company, East Harlem Triangle, after Abyssinian sold a Pathmark site for $39 million back in 2014 but failed to pay the company their share of $2.1 million. According to the Daily News there was an agreement between the church and East Harlem Triangle that the sale of the site would be a joint venture, but more than 18 months later Abyssinian failed to pay their share.

“This is devastating,” said Harlem State Sen. Bill Perkins to the Daily News. “Abyssinian is an iconic institution. If they are not doing right, who is doing right? Are we talking about incompetence here or something worse?”

This Week on the Humans Rights Beat

Although it is been almost a week since Pope Francis left the USA, the controversy is still on. Earlier this week, Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, revealed that she had met the pope in a private meeting in Washington. No major details of such meeting were revealed. However, many think that this was a political and religious statement from the pope to clarify his position regarding marriage equality. Also, a day before meeting Davis, the pope met Yayo Grassi, his former student from Argentin who is a gay man.

In an interview with Noticias Univision, Grassi said that the only purpose of revealing his meeting with the pope is to show how the pope views the gay community. “I prefer not to talk about the meeting because it is personal and I value the pope’s friendship and his trust in me. He knows my relationship with my partner. And I feel totally supported by Francis,” said Grassi.  Although  the different versions don’t clarify the pope’s position regarding marriage equality, the Vatican’s spokesman has confirmed both encounters,  but he hasn’t further comment on it.

Another story that made headlines this week was the Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against Roca Lab for allegedly threatening consumers’ freedom of speech and false advertisement.
Jennifer Schaive bought a dietary supplement that, according to the company’s website, is an alternative to gastric bypass surgery. However, after months of consuming the product, she realized it wasn’t working, so she decided post a complain on the company’s website. The company allegedly tried to intimidate her and sued her.