On Father’s Day, June 17, several thousand marched behind a banner demanding that the New York City police “End Stop and Frisk” and “End Racial Profiling.” Said NAACP President Ben Jealous, a central march organizer: “Stop and frisk is the most massive local racial profiling program in the country.”
The ethnically diverse rally marched from the northern tip of Central Park on 110th St. and then proceeded south on 5th Ave., past exclusive homes, to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mansion at 79th St. At the march’s end, near the mayor’s home, cops strong-armed dozens of mostly young marchers, who had conducted a vocal, impromptu rally of their own, and pushed them out of the street. There were no arrests.
Mayor Bloomberg, whose personal wealth is $22 billion, is an enthusiastic supporter of “stop and frisk.” Another proponent is Bloomberg appointee Ray Kelly, New York’s top cop, who headed the training of Haitian police under a deadly U.S.-led United Nations military occupation.
The mostly silent procession, which avoided central Harlem by pre-arrangement with city officials, according to reliable sources, was modeled on the 1917 NAACP silent 5th Ave. march in protest of a racist riot and the lynching of Blacks in East St. Louis.
Other rally organizers were activist/politician Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and union leaders loyal to the Democratic Party—most prominently, union President George Grisham of SEIU 1199. The march was endorsed by nearly 300 community organizations, which included immigrant rights groups, Muslim organizations, and Occupy Wall Street.
Among the signs carried by protesters were “Skin color is not reasonable suspicion,” “Stop and Frisk: The New Jim Crow” and “Frisk the Bankers.” Another, “He Couldn’t Be Here Today,” showed a drawing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinea immigrant killed by a hail of 41 bullets fired by NYC cops in 1999, igniting massive protests.
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the N.Y. Civil Liberties Union, has called stop and frisk an “unconstitutional violation of civil rights.” According to a report released by the NYCLU, police stopped and interrogated 685,724 individuals in 2011, a more than 600-percent increase in street stops since 2002, Bloomberg’s first year. An incredible 87% were Black or Latino. Of those, nine out of 10 were found innocent. Less than 2% had weapons. Black and Latino males, between 14 and 24 years old, were 41.6 percent of all stops in 2011, but only 4.7% of the city’s population!
Top cop Kelly maintains that the policy lowers street crime. Facts speak differently. For example, murder in New York dropped 11% from 2002 to 2011. However, the murder rate dropped by 50% in Los Angeles, 43% in Washington, D.C., and 35% in Chicago over the same period, cities without stop and frisk.
On May 15, Federal Judge Shira Scheinlin granted a hearing for a class-action suit against the policy by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Said CCR attorney, Darius Charney, “This is not about five or six bad officers;” it affects “hundreds of thousands of people in the city.” Also pending are at least three lawsuits by civil liberties organizations against the NYPD’s patrols of privately owned buildings and the detaining of tenants with the landlord’s permission.
The NYPD has also targeted New York’s Muslim community through police surveillance on legal antiwar activity, infiltration, and frame-ups on “terrorism” charges. Virtually ignored by the corporate media and organizers who sought to deflect criticism of Obama was a contingent linking attacks on the Muslim community to the war drive. Participants included Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan NY, the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC), Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), the NY Board of Imams, Occupy Wall Street, the Muslim Peace Coalition USA, Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights, and many others.
Speaking to Socialist Action, Roksana Mun, youth organizer for DRUM—which brought several hundred, mostly women, low-wage workers of Southeast Asian origin to the march—said, “We have a vibrant immigrant community that has showed its solidarity with all communities of color. All communities of color must unite against all forms of police brutality, surveillance and stop and frisk.” The Muslim Peace Coalition had about 200 marchers, many from the Harlem mosque of Imam Talib, who was invited to march up front with the lead banner.
Testimony of police violence
Christopher Chadwick, a Brooklyn college student, told The New York Times, “They talk to you like you’re ignorant, like you’re an animal.” Recently, in Queens, Louis Morales, 15, and Alex Mejia, 16, were shoved into a car by narcotics police. One cop told them, “Say one word and I’m going to make your parents pick you up at the jail. You guys are just a bunch of immigrants.”
Jason Morales, an organizer for the union SEIU 1199, interviewed on Pacifica radio’s “Democracy Now!” program, said, “It’s been more than 20 times that I’ve been stopped and frisked in my neighborhood in Brooklyn and never arrested.” When asked why, he replied, “I’m assuming because of the color of my skin. I’m brown. I’m Latino, and we experience that day in and day out. As a teenager that’s all I experienced.”
Tyquan Brehon, 18, an African American high school student, told The New York Times that he has been stopped more than 60 times, several times handcuffed, and detained for hours without charges. His case was made into a short film by Julie Dresser and Edwin Martinez.
Stop and frisk is similar to other racist policies. The NYPD “Street Crimes Unit,” now disbanded, was responsible for the death of Amadou Diallo in 1999. In Miami, what are called police “jumpouts,” guns drawn, were responsible for several high profile deaths of African Americans over the last decade. At the June 17 march were the fathers of Ramarley Graham 18, and Trayvon Martin, 17, murdered in South Florida, victims of racist violence against African Americans.
Ramarley Graham was killed Feb. 2, 2012, in the Bronx by Richard Haste of the NYPD narcotics unit, who claimed Graham had a gun. But Graham was unarmed. He was shot in his bathroom in front of his grandmother and little brother. At first, cops claimed that Graham was running to his door, but a camera video showed him walking. Cops came into the house, guns drawn, kicking down a door without a warrant. Haste was charged with manslaughter.
Some 500 protesters, many from Occupy Wall Street, rallied outside Graham’s Bronx home. Frank Graham, father of the slain teen, said, “We are human beings. Stop treating us like animals! My son did nothing wrong. I want justice for my son, my baby.” Protesters then rallied at the 47th precinct, chanting, “NYPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?”
Other high-profile murder victims of the NYPD include the elderly Eleanor Bumpers, killed in her home in 1984; Anthony Baez, whose football struck a police car in 1994; Sean Bell, killed in his van by police bullets; and Patrick Dorismond, a Haitian immigrant. Abner Louima, also a Haitian, was tortured by police (who stuck a plunger up his rectum), sparking huge protest rallies.
Coincidently, the day of the march carried news of the death of Rodney King, who was savagely beaten in 1992 by seven racist Los Angeles cops. King received 50 blows to the head, was kicked and tasered. Although it was caught on video, the cops were acquitted, which resulted in six days of rebellion and 55 dead. In the end, two were sentenced to two years behind bars.
Socialists support mass mobilizations against cop racism, brutality, and illegal spying. At the same time, we point out that there can be no permanent solution to police violence until we do away with capitalism.
> The article above was written by Marty Goodman, and is reprinted from the July 2012 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.