Sharpton Stabbed in Chest Before N.Y. Protest March : Race relations: The black activist is in stable condition following the attack in a Brooklyn neighborhood. A white suspect is in custody.


The Rev. Al Sharpton, a flamboyant black activist who has been a lightning rod of controversy in this city, was stabbed in the chest Saturday just minutes before he was to lead a protest march through a predominantly white Brooklyn neighborhood where a black teen-ager was slain by a mob of white youths two years ago.

A suspect, whom police identified as Michael Riccardi, 27, was arrested in connection with the stabbing in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood. He was charged with attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon and violation of civil rights in the attack on Sharpton.

Police said Riccardi, who is white, has two previous assault convictions, including a 1985 assault on a police officer.


Sharpton, 36, was taken to nearby Coney Island Hospital, where officials said that he was “stable, conscious and resting comfortably.”

“He’s in the recovery room now,” a hospital spokeswoman said late Saturday. “God willing, everything’s going to be OK.”

A second man who may have been involved in the stabbing was being questioned at a Brooklyn police precinct, a police spokeswoman said. The man, however, was not under arrest, she added.

The march, which drew about 100 mostly black demonstrators, went on without Sharpton, who was stabbed in the left side of his chest. Authorities said there were no further incidents.

Mayor David N. Dinkins learned about the stabbing while at Gracie Mansion, his official residence, and went to the hospital to visit Sharpton, mayoral spokesman Albert Scardino said.

In a statement, Dinkins said: “I am deeply disturbed by the stabbing of the Rev. Al Sharpton today. . . . We will not tolerate one individual using violence to stop another individual from exercising his or her 1st Amendment rights (to free speech).”


The Dinkins statement also said that Sharpton was asking for calm in Bensonhurst.

The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. as the demonstrators were gathering in a schoolyard for a march to protest what Sharpton and his supporters called the lenient sentencing Friday of one of the white youths involved in the murder of 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins in 1989 in Bensonhurst.

Reportedly among the marchers were Hawkins’ parents, Moses Stewart and Diane Hawkins.

Sharpton has led several protest marches through the largely Italian-American neighborhood without any serious incidents since Hawkins was shot and killed while he and three teen-age companions were in Bensonhurst to answer an advertisement for a used car.

Hawkins’ slaying attracted national attention and pushed racial tensions in this city to their worst level in years. One black-led demonstration erupted in a bloody clash with police at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Eight young men have been charged in Hawkins’ slaying. Six have been tried so far, but only Joseph Fama, 20, the accused triggerman, has been found guilty of murder.

On Friday, state Supreme Court Judge Thaddeus Owens of Brooklyn refused to give any extra prison time to John Vento, a defendant who was recently convicted on a charge of riot following an earlier mistrial. Owens’ decision was vigorously denounced by Sharpton and Hawkins’ parents.

Sharpton, a preacher whose pulpit is the streets, is known for his flamboyant style and confrontational tactics.

He was instrumental in getting authorities to prosecute whites involved in a racial attack on blacks in the Howard Beach section of Queens in 1986. In that incident, a black man was chased to his hit-and-run death on a highway.