Members of the End Rape NYPD and NOW-NYC held a protest in Foley Square last night to coincide with the sentencing of Kenneth Moreno, who was given 1 year in prison for misdemeanor official misconduct, despite being acquitted of rape in May. Both groups are asking for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to implement a comprehensive training program on rape, sexual assault, a proper police conduct. "The justice system did all it can do," protest organizer Amy Klein told us, "Now it's up to Ray Kelly to enact these logical steps to ensure that this never happens again, and that women who report sexual assault are taken seriously."
As demonstrations go, it was an intimate affair: around 50 people gathered amidst the skateboarders and tourists with camcorders attempting to document their time in front of the "Law & Order" courthouse. A paddywagon filled with policemen sat in the A.C., as they would clearly not be needed. Barbara Burke, a newly minted attorney from Forest Hills, attended with her son because she senses a "rollback" of women's rights in general. "We take what the women of the '70s did for granted, and we can't let cases like this chip away at those hard-won advances," she said. But Burke didn't blame DA Cy Vance for the former cops' acquittals: "Cy Vance wouldn't have brought it to trial if he didn't think he had a case. He couldn't have known that jury would have acquitted."
City Councilwoman Letitia James was scheduled to speak, but was a no-show, ceding the floor to representatives of Connect NYC and SlutWalk NYC. While the smaller crowd may have turned fewer heads, it also allowed for various people to speak extemporaneously and passionately about the injustice of the whole affair. After a spirited "scream circle," a young man who identified himself as a victim of sexual assault, pleaded with the crowd to support those who report the crime. Another woman asked that New Yorkers speak up forcefully when they see a crime being committed: "If you see someone grab a woman's ass on the subway, call the motherfucker out!" she said.
Heavy on the minds of most of the attendees was the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, in which a withering and possibly unsubstantiated critiques of the accuser's character have thrown the charges against him into jeopardy. David Schleicher, also of Forest Hills, told us he saw striking similarities in the two cases: "What's happened with DSK is the same as in the Rape Cop trial. It's excessive victim blaming. She's 'disturbed' or she wants money. It's all beyond the pale."
People will get a chance to express their opinion on the treatment of Strauss Kahn's accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, at his next court hearing on the 23rd, at a rally sponsored by SlutWalk NYC.
Update (9/9/11): Gothamist has published a long-form feature about the Rape Cop case, written by one of the jurors. It takes you behind the scenes during their deliberations, and explains how they came to their controversial verdict. Buy it today as a PDF or on Kindle.