NY mayor in conflict with blacks: Peter Pringle reports from New York on a turbulent start for Rudy Giuliani

THREE weeks into his job as New York's mayor, Rudy Giuliani is already in a row with the city's black leaders. The clash came much sooner than expected, and is a worrisome reminder of how frayed black-white relations are in the new administration. Whether or not the storm will pass is not clear.

Two 'accidents' sparked the clashes. In the first, the police received a bogus emergency call about an armed robbery at Harlem's Mosque No 7, run by the Nation of Islam, which in turn is run by the demagogic black minister Louis Farrakhan. There was no robbery, just a group of black Muslims in a prayer session. The black Muslims objected to the police intrusion and a fight broke out which, fortunately and remarkably, was restricted to fisticuffs. The brawlers spilt out on to the pavement and eight policemen were injured, plus an unknown number of people from the mosque.

True to his image as a tough law-and-order man, the mayor backed the police action and was generally praised for doing so among the constituency that elected him: middle-class whites. Among blacks he was severely criticised. They called him a 'fascist' and 'despicable' for sending police into such a 'sensitive' place.

No arrests were made because the mosque leaders promised to produce the names of those who were in the brawl, but they did not. So the police started their own inquiry and on Wednesday arrested their first suspect. More arrests are promised.

Meanwhile, the mayor's new police chief, William Bratton, who came from Boston vowing to clean up New York streets, refused to meet the city's most vocal black minister, the Rev Al Sharpton, to discuss the matter. The rebuff was taken by black leaders as Giuliani-inspired because the mayor had also refused to meet Mr Sharpton.

In fact, the mayor had laid down a rule about meeting ethnic leaders of any hue. He is prepared to reach out to them only, he said, 'if they will discipline themselves in the way they speak'. Both whites and blacks saw this as a condescending, even chilling, remark that did not help race relations in the city - especially as he won only 5 per cent of the black vote in last November's mayoral election.

Then came the second 'mistake'. In a case unrelated to the mosque incident the 17-year-old son of a black Muslim cleric was shot dead by a black policeman. Police had been called to a private house where the youth was accused of selling drugs. As they approached, the youth 'reached into his waistband' as though for a gun, according to the police. The police said they found 24 crack vials in the house.

Fortunately for the mayor the clashes were followed immediately by a weekend of ethnic healing during the remembrance of Martin Luther King's birthday. The mayor was able to go before black audiences and, over the din of the hecklers, try to convince the suspicious black community of his fairness. With poise and patience he told them, 'I have the same love, respect and caring for the African-American community as I do for all the communities of our city. Give me a chance.' Whether they will or not depends on the mayor's next steps, and also on a period of calm in the city's black neighbourhoods.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate