Did You Hear the One About the Preacher and the Lawyer?

January 10, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU News Wire: 1-10-99 — Did You Hear the One About the Preacher and the Lawyer?

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NEW YORK–The Rev. Al Sharpton and Norman Siegel, Executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, pledged yesterday to fight together against Gov. George E. Pataki’s proposal for a statewide DNA database for felons, The New York Times reports today.

They said the plan, outlined in the Governor’s State of the State Message last week, threatens privacy, exceeds any legitimate law enforcement needs and could ultimately be used to discriminate against those who fit a general genetic profile.

“It’s a major mistake to equate DNA samples with fingerprints and to say there are used solely for identification purposes,” Mr. Siegel said at a news conference. “DNA is that, but it is also much, much more.”

The joint appearance by the city’s most flamboyant black advocate and its most visible white civil libertarian, was sprinkled by sentimental references to similar alliances that blossomed during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s but have infrequently surfaced since, the Times said.

Mr. Siegel raised rainbow visions, declaring that with “black, white, brown and yellow together,” this year would be “a defining moment in the history of civil liberties in the city and state.”

For his part, Mr. Sharpton told his supporters in the crowd that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of his alliance with Mr. Siegel and the civil liberties group.

“We have the same lineage,” he said. “We fought governors in the South before and we’ll fight governors in the North now.”

Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Siegel have fought on the same side of the barricades frequently in the recent past, particularly in protesting police brutality and the policies of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

On the issue of DNA testing, the two expressed willingness not only to join forces but to merge their styles. At one point, the Times reports, Mr. Siegel tried to engage the crowd of Mr. Sharpton’s supporters by getting them to repeat his slogan, “DNA is d.o.a.” The audience didn’t catch on.

Mr. Sharpton got to his feet and grabbed the lectern. “Let me show you how to do this, Norm,” he said, and roused the crowd to chant the slogan with fists raised.

“What is DNA?” Mr. Sharpton called out. “D-O-A!” roared the people in response.

“What we just saw is a perfect example of why we need coalitions,” Mr. Siegel said in reclaiming the microphone. “A lawyer alone ain’t worth very much. A preacher alone ain’t worth very much. But a preacher and a lawyer together — watch out.”

Source: The New York Times, January 10, 1999

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