Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Sharpton Demands Justice in Georgia Drug War Killing 1/2/04

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Rev. Al Sharpton brought his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to Columbus, Georgia, on December 24 to demand justice in the killing of 39-year-old Kenneth Walker. Walker was gunned down December 10 by a Muscogee County deputy sheriff who had pulled over the vehicle he was driving as part of a drug investigation. No drugs or weapons were found in the vehicle, and local authorities have since conceded that Walker was not a target of their investigation (

That's not enough for the black community in Columbus, and it's not enough for Sharpton, who has made a career of denouncing law enforcement abuses against minorities. Speaking at a Columbus group packed with more than 350 people, the dark horse presidential contender drew parallels between the killing of Walker and broader abuses committed by law enforcement.

"Some would say that this shooting and my campaign should be addressed separately," Sharpton said. "But I say that someone has got to bring to a national level the brutality of law enforcement and the people sworn to uphold the law. We cannot have people that are sworn to uphold the law think they can become the law."

The killing is currently under investigation by the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and Sharpton put both on notice that the case is being followed. "We are watching this case... and if the report is not right, we will be back," said Sharpton to roaring applause. "I've seen enough here to see that this warrants national attention."

During a break in Sharpton's speech, members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and local chapters of the NAACP and Operation PUSH circulated petitions calling for the resignation of Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson and the naming of the deputy who killed Walker. Johnson has so far refused to release the shooter's name. Sharpton seconded that call. You say you have to protect the officer," he said. "Protect him from what? If he's an officer of the law, he's a public servant, paid by public taxpayers. We have the right to know." Sharpton then continued, his voice rising, "Who protected Kenny Walker?"

While Sharpton is not considered a first tier candidate by most observers -- he has consistently polled between 0% and 1% in New Hampshire -- the New York-based black activist has the potential to make an impact on the campaign, especially in South Carolina. According to a December 20 poll conducted by the American Research Group, Sharpton has 12% of the vote there, leaving him tied for second place with Wesley Clark and four points behind Howard Dean.

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Issue #318, 1/2/04 In Farewell Report, Syracuse Auditor Examines Drug War, Finds It Wanting | Spanish Government Moving to Close Pot Magazines, Grow Shops | BUSTED: New and Improved Video Offer from DRCNet | Pain Treatment Advocates to March on Washington this April, Call for Congressional Hearings on the DEA's War on Doctors | Newsbrief: Rehnquist Rakes Congress on Interference in Sentencing | Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Sharpton Demands Justice in Georgia Drug War Killing | Newsbrief: Maryland Appeals Court Says Rectal Search Too Much | Alaska Marijuana Legalization Initiative One Step from 2004 Ballot | Newsbrief: Bush Administration Using Colombia Drug War to Go After Venezuela's Chavez | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

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