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Civil Rights, Gay Activists Protest NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Tactics

by Verena Dobnik
Monday Jun 18, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) - A silent march by thousands of people in New York City protesting police "stop-and-frisk" tactics on Sunday was punctuated by an explosion of loud voices.

"We’ve got to fight back, we can’t be silent!" a group of activists shouted as they passed the home of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just off Fifth Avenue.

But the rest of the quiet, slow procession from Harlem down the avenue was interrupted only by the tapping of feet on the pavement and birds chirping in trees along Central Park.

Nearly 300 civil rights groups were represented in the 30-block walk, from elected officials and labor union members to New York residents angry about how they’re being treated when they walk the streets.

Critics say the NYPD’s practice of stopping, questioning and searching people who police consider suspicious is illegal and humiliating to hundreds of thousands of law-abiding blacks and Hispanics. Last year, the NYPD stopped close to 700,000 people, up from more than 90,000 a decade ago.

Bloomberg’s town house on East 79th Street was the proclaimed destination of the Sunday march. The home and sidewalk in front were blocked off by police barricades, and officers would not say whether the mayor was home.

As the march wound down, with a lineup of buses waiting to take protesters away, tensions between police and protesters suddenly escalated into clashes.

A group of them, led by longtime Occupy Wall Street activists, insisted on walking down Fifth below East 77th Street - apparently the cutoff point where police tried to direct them to side streets.

Police officers on scooters lined both sides of the avenue and officers on foot formed a line to keep people on the sidewalk. Several scuffles broke out between screaming protesters and officers who pushed them behind barricades.

One woman was seen wrestling with an officer who had leaped across a barricade, chasing her before she was arrested. Police said nine people were arrested on various charges including assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

"The silence ended and the people’s voices came out," said Matthew Swaye, 34, a former Bronx school teacher and self-described longtime Occupy protester.

"We were told to go home and we weren’t ready to go yet," said Swaye, who added that his wife, Christina Gonzalez, 25, was one of the protesters arrested in the melee.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, the NAACP and Local 1199 of the SEIU union were the leading organizers of Sunday’s march.

Resting on a bench while others walked, Samantha Tailor, a mother of two from the Bronx, said her 16-year-old son came home from school "very upset" last month after he and two friends were stopped on their way to classes that morning. That was the second time for her son in recent months, she said.

"Thank God, he had his ID," Tailor said. "He wasn’t doing anything wrong, just walking to school."

And when officers pushed the three against a wall and went through their pockets, "he told me he was very quiet, very humble."

Tailor said she had taught him what to do if he were stopped.

The practice of silent marches dates to 1917, when the NAACP led a protest through New York against lynchings and segregation in the U.S.

"We are black, white, Asian, LGBT, straight, Jewish, Muslim and Christian," New York City Council member Jumaane Williams said before Sunday’s march began, standing alongside American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. "Mayor Bloomberg has been our great uniter. We’ve been screaming loudly, and he hasn’t heard us, but hopefully he’ll hear the deafening silence."

Last year, the NYPD stopped more than 685,000 people, mostly black and Hispanic young men - up from about 97,000 a decade earlier, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which also was to join the march. About half of those stopped are frisked, and about 10 percent are arrested.

"In most cities, when you ask who gets beaten up by the cops, the answer comes back: black people, people of color, and the gay community," Benjamin Jealous, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said on MSNBC.

Jealous said that "the notion that this make us safer really defies logic," noting that other large cities have cut their crime rate without resorting to stop-and-frisk methods.

Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defend the policy, saying the program keeps guns off New York streets and helps stop crime before it happens.

Speaking at a Christian cultural center on Sunday in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said he is working with police to ensure that people are treated respectfully when they are stopped.

"I cannot in good conscience walk away from work that I know will save the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, and I will not," the mayor said.

Weingarten said the protest was a joint show of force by members of the LGBT and black communities working for the same cause.

The youths being stopped by police on New York streets "are our sons and daughters, they’re the people we teach and they’re being stopped because of the color of their skin, not because of who they are," she said.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2012-06-18 09:41:43

    Lots of heat here, not much light. Cruel and cynical exploitation of poor and underserved communities and oppressed people. The usual. Not whom one might think is guilty of such actions: the Poverty Pimps, who mine human misery for their own selfish gain, who care not for serious scholarship (all sides of an issue must be studied, sourced, presented in a fair manner) or to truly stop the hating and the hurting to let the healing and the loving to begin. Profiling of discrete population groups occurs in impoverished sections of western and upstate New York as well; the Aryan Nations, Skins and other "White Power" extremist groups recruit in the fifth grade. Downstate, other population groups get profiled. The offical rationale for "stop and frisk" is represented by the FBI and Interpol statistics on gang activity and reported incidence of rape and other heinous crimes. As manifested by the extra-legal tactics of law enforcement personnel, these actions which so alienate communities reflect the traumatic experiences of multiple deployments in Iraq and Afganistan; coping with massive collective PTSD, and having had repeatedly to tell families that their young sons and daughters died because of a shootout between rival gangsters has made the NYPD official goal of completely destroying extremely violent street gangs something to be done BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. So, to recap, gangs always target at-risk youth at ever younger ages; the New York State Dept. of Correction statistics show that the most violent incidents and write-ups for misconduct are for gang members from all parts of the state. The gangs are a national menace, prisonwide, city, state, federal correctional facilities. Moreover, many gangs are internationally situated. There is much more to this, but as someone who has very light skin color but an international multi-pigmented family, and one who has been extensively profiled myself (innocent, all times), my patience wears thin with jerks in the public eye and political office who f**k the rest of us. Would it be too much to ask if we were to adopt the post apartheid South African model of Conflict Resolution and Mediation (Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal)to our New York City, United States American lives? Collateral damage is not an acceptable option. I offer these comments from a loving open minded perspective. Got nothing to hide, I am out.. BTW, I am a Fourth Generation Native New Yorker. Cheers. R.P.


  • Anonymous, 2012-06-19 00:13:40

    IKR?!


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