NEW YORK, JAN. 12 -- The Rev. Al Sharpton, the flamboyant civil rights activist whose name is rarely out of the headlines, was stabbed in a schoolyard today just one block from the Bensonhurst street where black teenager Yusuf Hawkins was killed by a mob of white youths in 1989.
The 36-year-old Sharpton, whose inflammatory rhetoric and controversial positions have made him a hero to some blacks in the city but an embarrassment to many others, was about to lead a protest march attended by Hawkins's parents and nearly 100 others.
Sharpton was stabbed once in the chest with a five-inch kitchen knife at 1:30 p.m., according to New York City police, and was taken to Coney Island Hospital, where he was reported to be in stable condition.
Police Commissioner Lee P. Brown said the injuries were not life-threatening and that Sharpton would be released within three to four days. A hospital spokeswoman described Sharpton's condition as "stable, conscious and resting comfortably."
Police said Michael Riccardi, 27, was arrested immediately following the incident. He was charged with attempted murder. Another neighborhood resident was also arrested but his name was not immediately available.
"Apparently this man just approached the Rev. Sharpton and stabbed him," said Brown. Mayor David N. Dinkins (D) -- whom Sharpton has bitterly attacked, calling him a "liberal hypocrite" -- and Brown went to the hospital and visited Sharpton. "We have no known motive," Brown said.
During past demonstrations in Bensonhurst held to protest the Hawkins killing, hostile white crowds frequently taunted Sharpton with racial epithets. In the past, there has been little violence and police said there was none today when the demonstration resumed after the incident.
Sharpton gained his greatest notoriety as the champion of Tawana Brawley, the black teenager from Wappingers Falls in upstate New York whose tale of rape and assault by a group of white men was found by a grand jury to be totally without foundation.
He has been involved in advising the parents of Hawkins, who was killed in August 1989 after he went to the predominantly white Brooklyn neighborhood with friends to look at a used car. The incident became a touchstone of racial unrest in the city.
The triggerman in the killing was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. Several others were found guilty of crimes in the attack. The former key witness who backed out of a deal to cooperate with prosecutors was sentenced Friday to 1 1/2 to four years in prison. Sharpton planned today's march to protest what he considered the lenient sentences given the white youths.
Sharpton was also a regular spectator at the first Central Park jogger trial. As he had in the past, he accused the white establishment of seeking to lynch innocent black youths for the crime.
All defendants tried so far have been convicted in connection with the rape.