Mouth Of The Thames

There will always be a Sharpton

LONDON, May 1: The life of the British capital came to a standstill today, as the Rev. Al Sharpton led an estimated 250,000 followers in one of the largest mass demonstrations in British history. Following his speech to the House of Commons, the charismatic American preacher-the first foreigner ever to address the British Parliament-led a chanting, break-dancing crowd to the steps of Buckingham Palace, demanding an audience with the queen. Her Majesty, leaning from an upstairs window ...

Who knows what the famous Reverend Al - the "Beast of the Bronx," as the London tabloids dubbed him (overlooking the fact that he is actually from Brooklyn) - expected when he flew to London last week and checked into a $510-a-night suite at the Grosvenor House hotel? Probably something like this:

LONDON, May 2: Queen Elizabeth II lashed out today at the Rev. Al Sharpton, the New York community leader who had accused Her Majesty of racial insensitivity in a speech at the Oxford Union. Denouncing the portly preacher as a "screwball" and a "wacko," the queen defended the British record on human rights and urged the home secretary to look into the circumstances under which Sharpton was admitted to the country...

Well, it always worked with Ed Koch. But Sharpton, the rotund rabblerouser evidently grown too big for the pages of the New York Post, discovered that the country that stood up to Gandhi for almost 30 years wasn't all that impressed with the hero of the Tawana Brawley case. He had an ostensibly serious purpose in coming to London: to call attention to the case of Rolan Adams, a black teenager who had been stabbed to death, allegedly by a gang of whites, last February. Unfortunately, Sharpton undermined his credibility on the issue when he got Adams's name and age wrong and asserted that "no one has been arrested yet"-When in fact there have been nine arrests, the alleged murderer included. The English tabloids treated his arrival as a graver threat to the public order than if the armada had reappeared off the coast carrying a hundred Spanish soccer teams. But in fact most of the appearances of the pompaoured tribune of justice went off peacefully, not to say somnolently, save for the arrest of one drunken white youth, who was charged with the peculiarly British crime of waving a banana (or "inciting racial hatred") at Sharpton's entourage.

So you could hardly blame him for taking a swipe at the queen, and at Prime Minister John Major while he was at it. He accused them of silence (or "laryngitis") in the face of British racism, adding, "If the queen and the prime minister would speak up against racism, there would be no racism." The London tabloids treated this rather mild example of lese-majeste as gravely as if Sharpton had unzipped his jogging suit on the steps of Buckingham Palace, but Her Majesty inexplicably failed to seize the opportunity to get her picture into the papers by challenging him to a debate.

In fact, she said nothing at all.

It's enough to make one miss Ed Koch.

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