An organizer of the Million Youth March, which ended in turmoil as police prepared to enforce a court order, should be charged with inciting teenagers to riot and kill, top city officials said Sunday.
But black leaders argued that the four-hour rally in Harlem was peaceful until police in riot gear approached the stage where organizer Khallid Abdul Muhammad was delivering a vitriolic speech against police, Jews, and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.Muhammad's words "were like yelling fire at a movie theater, it was dangerous and it showed no respect for life," said state Sen. David Paterson. "But I was proud of Harlem yesterday. My neighbors were cordial to police, even though they were bullied and pushed around like cattle."
Saturday's rally briefly turned violent after Muhammad spoke. As he wrapped up his speech shortly after the deadline set by a court order, police helicopters flew in low and angry rally participants threw bottles and debris. Sixteen police officers and five civilians were injured.
An estimated 3,000 police officers - some wearing riot gear - had been deployed at the rally, which was attended by at least 6,000 people.
Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields on Sunday called for "an investigation into who ordered the police mobilization and why."
Giuliani insisted the only reason police had moved in was to enforce the court order setting limits on the rally. "The court said they had between 12 and 4. It means exactly that, it didn't mean 11:50 to 4:30. A court order is a sacred thing." Giuliani said Muhammad "he wanted to create a disturbance." Police stopped "what promised to be a really violent event," he said. "They listened to four hours of people, including women who got up and talked about killing Jews and taking off their scalp and cutting off their heads."
Police Commissioner Howard Safir said Sunday he believed Muhammad should be arrested.
"He invoked a crowd to kill police officers," Safir said. "He then had people throw chairs and barriers at his request at police officers."
Muhammad called police names and told participants to "beat the hell out of them with the railing if they so much as touch you."