Sunday, July 6, 1997
The Rev. Al Sharpton led about 60 marchers yesterday in peaceful protest of a grand jury decision that exonerated a white city cop in the shooting of a black Washington Heights teenager last April.
Roma Cedeno, mother of the slain youth, Kevin Cedeno, 16, spoke of her sadness at her son’s death.
“Nobody’s doing anything about it,” she said. “I’m not surprised at the decision at all. The mayor himself called it a ‘justifiable shooting’ within 24 hours after my son was killed. It all started from there.”
Protesters carried signs saying “Police Don’t Shoot White Males in the Back” and chanted “No Justice, No Peace.”
The rally, at McKenna Square, in front of the 33d Precinct at 165th St. and Amsterdam Ave., was the first of what would be weekly protests in front of the precinct, Sharpton said.
On Monday, a group of Washington Heights residents are expected to march around the square 16 times to mark Cedeno’s age at the time he was shot in the back by Police Officer Anthony Pellegrini.
Pellegrini and other officers were responding to a report of youths fighting and shots fired on April 6 when the shooting occurred. Cedeno and a group of friends had been drinking and fighting when they saw officers arriving. Cedeno’s friends, knowing he was on probation and that he had a machete in his possession, urged him to run.
Pellegrini testified before a grand jury that he shot at the youth after mistaking the 23-inch machete for a shotgun.
Last week, a Manhattan grand jury declined to indict Pellegrini.
Sharpton called the decision unacceptable.
“Just like we didn’t let a grand jury stop us with Bernard Goetz, we will not let a grand jury stop us on Kevin Cedeno,” he said. “Justice is a matter of our struggling until we win.”
Monique Kelly, 26, an administrative assistant at North General Hospital in Harlem and a resident of Washington Heights, said she came to protest because she has cousins, nephews and nieces about Cedeno’s age. “This could be anyone’s kid,” she said. “It makes you live in fear with the police officers who work here.”
Edward Hughes, 36, of Roselle, N.J., said he doesn’t believe the police version of the incident. “It is Kevin Cedeno today, it could be my son tomorrow.”
Captain Garry McCarthy, commander of the 33d Precinct, watched the rally, his arms folded while standing in front of the stationhouse. He later spoke with community activists to schedule a meeting.
“I’m looking to open a line of communication,” said McCarthy. “If we don’t communicate we’re never going to come together.”