Protesters snarl traffic over Sean Bell acquittals

MANHATTAN - Armed with signs and wearing T-shirts bearing Sean Bell's face, protesters tried to make good Wednesday on a promise to shut down New York City.

Hundreds of disillusioned New Yorkers called for justice as they gathered at the intersections of East 125th Street and Third Avenue, East 60th Street and Third Avenue, East 34th Street and Park Avenue and West Houston and Varick streets. The groups also moved around their locations.

They successfully blocked arteries to heavily traveled roadways such as the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Traffic was also delayed on the Triborough Bridge during rush hour.

Demonstrators gathered at One Police Plaza in downtown Manhattan and on Atlantic Avenue between Bond and Nevins streets near the House of Lord Church.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize the civil disobedience, Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, and Bell's friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, were arrested at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. About 190 demonstrators were taken into custody.

They're trying to put pressure on the feds to bring civil rights violation charges against NYPD Officers Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper. Judge Arthur Cooperman delivered the acquittal verdict last month, clearing the cops in the November 2006 50-shot bullet barrage that killed Bell on his wedding day. Cooperman cited the plaintiffs' previous criminal records.

Bell, 23, was at his bachelor party with Benefield and Guzman at a Queens strip club. Undercover detectives were conducting an investigation at the same club. The officers claimed that they thought the men had a gun. They said they opened fire after Bell hit one of the officers with his car while trying to escape the scene.

Benefield and Guzman, who now walks with a cane after the shooting, said the officers never identified themselves and that they feared for their lives as the plainclothes cops surrounded their vehicle. Investigators never found a weapon in Bell's car.

The not guilty verdict left many reeling over the latest NYPD shooting of an unarmed minority. Before the massive protest, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the NYPD was ready to handle the situation.

Paultre Bell, who took her fiancé's last name after his death, has said she will not stop until she receives justice for Bell. The couple has two young children.

Click for more on Bronx residents' involvement in the protests.

For Chopper 12 footage of the protests, go to Channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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