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February 04, 1994 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-02-04

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Jews, accidentally killed a black
youth, 7-year-old Gavin Cato.
The incident touched off three
days of rioting. The city's slow
reaction to the disturbances is
believed to have contributed to
the election defeat of New York
Mayor David Dinkins last
Ms. Reno agreed to begin an
investigation after the Brooklyn
district attorney, Charles
Hynes, said he would not be
able to make a homicide case
against Ernesto Edwards,
whose name recently surfaced
as a suspect in the case.
An earlier suspect, Lemrick
Nelson, was acquitted last year
in a New York court — despite
his own admission of guilt and
testimony by eyewitnesses who
saw him stab Mr. Rosenbaum.
Ms. Reno's investigation will
focus on both Mr. Edwards and
Mr. Nelson.
Ms. Reno's announcement
came after intense pressure
from New York Democrats and
Republicans, headed by Sens.
Alfonse D'Amato and Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, who vowed
to hold hearings on her han-
dling of the matter if she did not
immediately look into the case.
Several months earlier, Sen.
D'Amato co-sponsored, with
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, an
amendment calling for an in-
vestigation into possible civil
rights violations in the
Rosenbaum case. Speaking on
the matter before the Senate,
Sen. D'Amato asked, 'What is
a civil rights violation? Is it
chasing someone down the
street for three blocks yelling,
`Kill the Jew' or 'Kill the black'
or 'Kill that Catholic'?
If that wouldn't constitute a
civil rights violation, I don't
know what does."
Sen. D'Amato has been an
outspoken supporter of investi-
gating the case since Mr.
Rosenbaum's death. Yet his ef-
forts weren't always appreciat-
ed by many in New York and
Washington, including a num-
ber of Jewish groups, said Jeff
Wiesenfeld, executive assistant
for the senator's New York City
Hours after the violence be-
gan, Sen. D'Amato "proclaimed
it was an outrage," Mr.
Wiesenfeld said. But some
Jews, including the director of
one national Jewish group, "at-
tacked the senator," he said.
"The organized Jewish estab-
lishment failed (on this issue.)"
Other political leaders were
hesitant to get involved as well,
he said. Now that the case is
once again in the news, "there
have been a lot of Johnny come-
latelys," Mr. Wiesenfeld said.
"But at first, everyone was
afraid to poke his head up."
In addition to Sen. D'Amato
and Sen. Moynihan, former
New York Mayor Ed Koch and

New York Assemblyman Dov
Hilkind have been demanding,
for some time now, an inquiry
into the case.
Mr. Wiesenfeld described the
Crown Heights violence as "a
pogrom. For three days and
three nights Jews were at-
tacked mercilessly. 'Pogrom' is
the only word for it."
He said he is concerned by
the kind of precedent this case
— if not properly decided —

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato

could set. How, he asked, could
a jury decide that Rodney King,
the black motorist beaten by
white policemen in Los Angeles,
had his civil rights violated, but
a Jewish man — stabbed to
death specifically because he is
Jewish — did not? "At least," he
said, "Rodney King is alive."
But Mr. Wiesenfeld is not
confident Ms. Reno's investi-
gation will result in anything
new. "We hope for the best, but
prepare for the worst," he said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Moynihan
labeled Ms. Reno's decision
to bring the case to the federal
courts "a welcome step in the
right direction. The great
issue is that civil rights laws
should be seen to apply to all
groups, regardless of race,
creed, color, or any other at-
tribute that can bring on civil
violence." ❑

Rabin Update
On Peace Talks

New York (JTA) — In a con-
ference call with leaders of
American Jewish organiza-
tions, Prime Minister Yit-
zhak Rabin said "there was
some progress" made this
past weekend toward an
agreement for implementing
the Palestinian self-rule ac-
His characterization of the
talks in Switzerland bet-
ween Israeli Foreign Min-
ister Shimon Peres and
Palestine Liberation Organ-
ization Chairman Yassir
Arafat was more cautious
than the initial burst of op-
timism that followed the
weekend meeting. ❑

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