By Tim Gorta
HARLEM — "Today we are all women," State Sen. Bill Perkins declared in front of the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building in Harlem.
Perkins joined community and religious leaders there Sunday for a rally in support of the woman accusing ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. The speakers presented the case, which has hit a number of stumbling blocks in recent weeks, to an audience of about 80 as an issue for the rights of women, minorities, and immigrants.
"Every woman is subject to these malicious, destroying kinds of allegations" that have derailed the case against Strauss-Kahn, said speaker Virginia Montague, president of the New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women. "We demand that this woman has her day in court," she added.
Prosecutors wrote a scathing letter to Strauss-Kahn's defense attorneys attacking the credibility of the accuser, a 32-year-old Guinean immigrant, both in terms of the details she gave about the alleged May 14 sex attack at a Midtown hotel and concerning her personal life.
In the wake of the June 30 letter, prosecutors released Strauss-Kahn without bail and freed him from house arrest, leaving the future of the case in limbo.
Zenaida Mendez, president of the National Dominican Women's Caucus, praised the police and the district attorney's office for their role in indicting Strauss-Kahn before adding, "The situation with the press, this is what we are questioning," in reference to the tabloid headlines that have been influencing public opinion.
The New York Post was sued for a series of articles in early July that claimed that the alleged victim was a prostitute.
"This woman represents all of us," said Cordelle Cleare, Perkins' chief of staff, "and what happens in this case affects us all."
"I'm optimistic that [this rally] and subsequent actions will keep this case on track for justice," said Perkins after the rally.
"I believe the reason the case got off track was unjustified and irrelevant. The facts of the case haven't changed. The media had a heavy hand in getting the case off track, especially the New York Post with their false accusations and vicious innuendo, but they're not alone."
"Our system is now on trial," he added. "All over the world, people are watching to see how we do justice in this country."