Focus on Barry Trial Flawed, Jackson Says
WASHINGTON — THOUGH the trial of Mayor Marion Barry is over, the ``estrangement, distrust, and alienation'' of the black community cannot be dismissed lightly, says Jesse Jackson. ``I don't think it's black versus white, I think it's wrong versus right,'' the Rev. Mr. Jackson, a candidate for Washington's newly created shadow Senate seat, said at a breakfast with reporters last week.
He said the intense focus on the 10-week Barry trial, which ended in a single acquittal, a single conviction, and a mistrial on the 12 remaining charges, illustrates what he sees as the broader problem of judicial racism while tending to obscure ``the factors that contribute to a rather drug-oriented culture.''
He reiterated the black community's feeling that the elaborate prosecution of Mayor Barry is racist overkill. He said that sentiment has been fueled in recent years by the politically damaging prosecutorial fishing expeditions that turned up nothing on US Rep. William Gray III, D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy, and New York Mayor David Dinkins. Blacks feel this so strongly, he said, that they ``feel severely threatened ... with a sense that the Justice Department is coming after you, and not to protect you.''
The narrow focus on Barry and his drug use diverts attention from the broader role of drugs in society. Jackson reminded reporters that drugs were a key element of the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra foreign policy fiasco and that drugs have been a problem for some of society's more influential figures.
He also criticized the news media for its attention to the Barry trial at the expense of growing problems in the district such as violent crime, prison overcrowding, and the near-bankruptcy of hospitals and schools.