NEW YORK (Sep. 8)
Khalid Muhammad’s Million Youth March failed to attract, in the end, the legions of young people promised by its name.
Black leaders threatened to sue New York City after the march, which drew just 6,000 people, ended in a melee that erupted when police officers attempted to halt the rally after it went on beyond its court-imposed deadline.
For their part, New York City officials said they were considering bringing criminal charges against Muhammad for what they said were statements that incited the crowd to riot at the rally, which was held in Harlem on Saturday.
While Muhammad spent most of his 10 minutes on stage lashing out at the mayor and police, he also managed to target Jews with such comments as:
“Stop asking me about the Jews being the bloodsuckers of the black nation. The no-good bastards, they are the bloodsuckers of the black community. How many say they are the bloodsuckers of the black community? Let me see your fists in the air!”
City officials “never would have gone to the God-damned Jews in Crown Heights and told their youth that they couldn’t march on Utica Avenue or Eastern Parkway, but they told you you couldn’t march here today.”
His chief aid, Malik Zulu Shabazz, said in his own speech that “I don’t care what the Jews say you are. The only people who have been in bondage for over 400 years, you are the true chosen people of God. It is not the so-called Jews.”
The rally also attracted nationwide attention both for the rabidly anti-white, anti-Semitic rhetoric on which the former Nation of Islam official has built his reputation and for New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s unsuccessful effort to prevent the gathering from taking place.
Some intergroup relations professionals in New York say the controversy that surrounded the march is having a negligible effect on black-Jewish relations.
“I don’t think that the march had a dramatic impact on black-Jewish relations,” said Adam Segall, New York regional director for the Anti-Defamation League
“In some ways outreach to the African American community in Harlem, and the positive relationship with certain political leaders has been strengthened” by the working together to respond to Muhammad, said Segall, referring to black politicians and organizational leaders who condemned Muhammad before the rally.
“To a larger extent than I’ve ever seen before, there was a dramatic consensus as to who this man was and that he shouldn’t be the one to lead black youth.”
Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, said, “I don’t expect to see implications for black-Jewish relations” from the rally.
But Dennis Walcott, president of the New York Urban League, which advocates for the black community, disagreed.
The march “has had an impact on black-Jewish relations,” he said, and the concerns of the Jewish community with Muhammad’s rhetoric and the “inconsistent reactions on the part of black community leaders and politicians” are prompting the need for discussion about it between the two communities.
“I don’t think the relationship is beyond repair, but just frayed around the edges,” Walcott said. “We can’t allow someone like Khalid Muhammad to interfere in productive relations that have been developed.”
Meanwhile, Muhammad vowed to hold another Million Youth March next year in the heart of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
It was there, seven years ago, that a mob of rioting blacks surrounded and fatally stabbed a young Chasidic man in the neighborhood where blacks and Jews live side by side.
Muhammad threatened to hold his event in Crown Heights this year, but changed his mind after a request from the chief organizer of the famed Caribbean Day Carnival, a massive parade filled with colorful costumes and Calypso music that takes place in the neighborhood on Labor Day.