Rev. Al Sharpton has backed out of eulogizing Randolph Holder, the NYPD officer gunned down in East Harlem last week, after a police union boss objected to his speaking.
The public relations firm Mercury sent out copies of an undated letter from Sharpton to Randolph Holder, Sr. this morning. In the letter, Sharpton explains that he wanted to avoid making the funeral "a sideshow" and to keep the focus 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 tomorrow," he continued.
The publicity email also included a picture purporting to show the program for the funeral, listing Sharpton as the eulogist, in apparent response to an anonymously sourced Post report early this morning stating that Sharpton was never meant to speak at the service.
Holder's fiancee told the tabloid the late cop was against Sharpton, making the eulogy a strange fit.
"He didn't like [Sharpton]. He wasn't a fan. So I don't know why [Sharpton] is speaking," Mary Muhammad said.
Yesterday's front page Daily News story revealing Sharpton's planned speech included comments from Sergeants Benevolent Association head Ed Mullins saying that the activist and cable-news commentator's history of anti-police-brutality advocacy made him a poor choice for a speaker.
"Sharpton is a divider," Mullins said. "Maybe the family doesn't understand his history with the NYPD. The city is divided because of people like Sharpton."
"He's going to have to throw some magic around if he wants to get those at the funeral on his side and bring peace to the people," he added.
A public viewing for Holder is taking place today until 6 p.m. at the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York at 110-31 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. A family-only funeral service is taking place at the church at 3 p.m. tomorrow. Holder's body will then be flown to Georgetown, Guyana for burial in a family plot.
The full letter provided by Sharpton's PR firm is below:
After reviewing some of the media reports this morning, I write this letter to you because I have deliberately remained silent in the last 48 hours about the invitation extended by you and your pastor, Rev. Les Mullings, to attend and have words at the funeral of your son tomorrow. When I visited you on Saturday at your invitation and it was raised by you and Rev. Mullings about my being invited and having words to give unity to the city, I stated to you then that I am unapologetically committed to fighting for civil rights causes including cases that involved alleged police misconduct and brutality. In fact, we are at the forefront of several cases right now and will continue to pursue justice. But I have never been, and never has National Action Network been, anti-police and in fact have worked alongside with police around gun violence issues which is why we had a vigil for your son in Harlem on Saturday as we did a vigil on Martin Luther King Day in Brooklyn in memory of the two police officers slain earlier this year.
I thought my coming might give a sense of unity in the city; that we can disagree on cases and on policies but that we are united that the senseless and ruthless killing of officers like your son must be denounced and we must as a city come together and mourn that loss. I thought you and your pastor’s idea that both of you expressed to me on Saturday showed the height of moral leadership because you cannot heal if you are selective on those that you allow to be in the discussion. It is important this ugliness, whether it is police turning their backs on a mayor at a hospital, or people demonizing civil rights leaders for raising civil rights issues, stop and real respectful dialogue occur. Language on both sides should be geared towards solutions and not sound bites.
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 tomorrow. So I therefore, respectfully, want to inform you and your pastor that I have withdrawn my acceptance of your invitation to attend or have words at the funeral services of your son tomorrow. I also, though, remain committed to the spirit of unity that you and I discussed, and National Action Network and I are available upon your return from Guyana to continue the dialogue to how we can best do that in the name of your son. We also are contributing $5,000 to you to help defray the expenses that you and your family incur during this time of grief.
May God bless you and your family and may the city remember a good cop on tomorrow, who put his life on the line for us, and we owe him our gratitude, not some sideshow.