Skip to content

Silent March to Protest NYC’s “Stop and Frisk”

June 28, 2012
by Lawrence Gulotta

Father’s Day, June 17th to protest the increasing unpopular Stop and Frisk policies of the New York City Police Department. Many thousands of marchers departed, starting at 3 PM, in silent procession, from the corner of W. 110th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem and solemnly marched down Fifth Avenue to E. 77thStreet, one block from the luxury townhouse of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

299 organizations endorsed the march.

  • Unions were well represented with “boots on the ground” and banners up. The union turnout was impressive and included: the United Automobile Workers, Locals 2110, 2325, and Region 9A, New York Metro Area Postal Union, APWU, UFT, AFSCME DC 37, 1199 SEIU and SEIU 32BJ, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3, Laborers Local 79, NYC Central Labor Council, and RWDSU.
  • Civil Rights organizations were in the lead contingents: NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, NAACP NY Metro, NAACP Tri-State,.
  • LGBT organizations were represented, in large numbers, individually and through their various organizations.
  •  Religious organizations, including numerous Muslim, Jewish, Quaker and Christian social justice committees and Congregations and Chinese, Korean and Arab community groups.Student associations, including several hundred Muslim youth.
  • Occupy Wall Street veterans.
  • Democratic Party elected officials Christine Quinn, the Council speaker, Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, and William Thompson, the former city comptroller.
  • Small contingents of the sectarian left (all 57 varieties) kibitzed with the marchers and sold their newspapers.
Notably, the turnout reflected a growing alliance between civil rights groups and the large gay and lesbian activist community in NYC.
“The idea for the demonstration took root,” according to the New York Times, “three months ago in Selma, Ala., after a commemoration of the 1965 civil rights march there, said Benjamin Todd Jealous, the president of the NAACP, who met there with the Rev. Al Sharpton and George Gresham, president of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.”
The march was in sharp contrast with the recent Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, with very few clashes with the police. There were arrests, at the end of the march, in the vicinity of the Mayor’s townhouse, when protesters failed to disperse.

“Just the Facts”

During the past 10 years of the Bloomberg administration, the New York Civil Liberties Union reports 4,356,927 stops were made:  police officers stopped 685,724 people in 2011, 87% of them black and Hispanic. The number of stops made in 2011 represents an increase of 707% over the 97,000 stops made in 2002. Of those stopped in 2011, more than half were frisked. Among young Afro-American males, ages 14-24, the number of stops last year was greater than their total population. Young Afro-Americans are only 4.7% of the city’s population, yet these males accounted for 41.6% of the stops last year. Six per cent of those stopped in 2011 were arrested, or 29,143.
Of the 4,500 guns seized by the police department in 2011, only 780 guns were captured by Stop and Frisk tactics, or 17%, not much more than the 604 guns seized in 2003, when the police made 160,851 stops.  Obviously, the Police have other, more effective means, to take guns out of circulation.
“The fall-out”
A federal judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin has stated she was disturbed by the city’s “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”
Judge Scheindlin noted the evidence in the case showed that the department had a “policy of establishing performance standards and demanding increased levels of stops and frisks” that has led to an exponential growth in the number of stops.
The silent protest march made it clear that the opposition to stop-and-frisk extended far beyond the black and Latino communities. Community ‘town meetings” on the Mayor’s stop-and-frisk policies have been held throughout the Metropolitan area. Debates are taking place between those who advocate abolishing the policy and those who seek to ameliorate the affects of the policy, bring it under control. The tough questions of racial profiling, class and discrimination are being argued out in the communities and in court.
 A side issue to stop-and-frisk is the NYPD’s determination to ignore the existing 1977 NYS law decriminalizing the personal possession and use of marijuana. The NY Times pointed out on June 23rd that, “Under state law, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense when the drug is being smoked or “open to public view.” Possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana out of public view—for example, inside an individual’s pocket or backpack—is a violation, warranting only a ticket.” The police have been turning violations into misdemeanors, when suspects are ordered to empty their pockets during stop-and-frisks. Gov. Cuomo has now stepped in, with the support of the five district attorneys of NYC, to get the Assembly and Senate to allow the public carrying of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, “subject to a violation and a fine of $100.” The response of the Majority Leader of the Senate, Dean Skelos, Republican, was first, “I think we can work on that…That is wrong. It should be a violation. You’re following the policeman’s order.” Since the NYS Conservative Party came out forcefully against the Governor’s policy, Skelos has refused to support the Governor’s bill, passed by the Assembly. Former Mayor Ed Koch has called for “a mass rally in City Hall Plaza to demand that the state legislature pass it.” He has stated, “Those young men and women who have received misdemeanor sentences unfairly when violations would have been appropriate should be given the opportunity to have their records cleared of the erroneous charge.” Mayor Koch supports stop-and-frisk policy, with amendments. He articulates, perhaps more colorfully, the policy of the Democratic political establishment.

Conclusion

The Silent march demonstrated that the injustice of stop-and-frisk affects many groups and individuals and is not simply a “minority group” issue.
The labor movement will mobilize with its allies to address issues beyond narrow business unionism.
The civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement have demonstrated organizational affinity in addressing issues of common concern.
The stop-and-frisk policy is headed to the federal courts, in that, in its current application by the NYPD, it is in violation the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Civil libertarians can achieve victories against the City’s “cavalier” attitudes toward the Constitutional rights of its citizens.
Of equally important concern is the acceleration of a policy of “militarizing” the police force in America.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *