New America Media, News Report, Benjamin Jealous, Posted: Jun 07, 2012
Last year in New York City, police stopped and interrogated black men and boys between the ages 14 and 24 a total of 168,126 times. The total population of black men and boys aged 14 through 24 in New York City is 158,406, which means the total number of stops exceeds the total number of black men and boys living in the city.
On Father’s Day, a group of civil rights activists, civil liberty advocates and outraged community members will march silently down the streets of New York City to protest the outrageous abuses of stop-and-frisk policing in our nation’s most diverse city.
Such policing is a wholesale violation of civil rights. The program has seemingly given law enforcement carte blanche to stop anyone they please. This has led to hundreds of thousands of innocent people – a majority of whom are people of color – being harassed and humiliated by the police sworn to protect them.
Last year, 87 percent of people stopped under stop-and-frisk were African American or Latino, while those groups represented just 59 percent of the New York City’s population.
These stops often result in nothing more than a humiliating experience for the suspect. A full 90% of individuals stopped were found entirely innocent of any legal infraction.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has argued that the program acts as a deterrent to crime, but other large cities have successfully cut crime without resorting to such methods. The violent crime rate fell 29 percent in New York City from 2001 to 2010, but it also fell 59 percent in Los Angeles over the same time period, 56 percent in New Orleans, and 49 percent in Dallas. In these cities, community policing has proven extremely effective.
What’s worse, stop-and-frisk is incredibly counterproductive. The program breaks the valuable bond of trust between police officers and the communities they are supposed to protect. A 2004 Amnesty International study demonstrated that stop-and-frisk victims suffer emotional distress and humiliation. The experience is an invasion of privacy and a stinging reminder of how police resources are being diverted away from solving homicides, rapes and other violent crimes, to an ineffective and racially biased practice.
Now is the time to demand change. The number of street stops has increased more than 600 percent since Mayor Bloomberg’s first year in office. Last year the NYPD conducted more than 685,000 street stops. We cannot allow this number to continue to grow. That is why we are marching in silent solidarity on Father’s Day to protest this policy.
The tradition of silent marches for civil rights dates back to 1917, when the then 8-year-old NAACP marched through New York City in a deafening chorus of silence to protest lynchings, segregation and race riots in the South. That march was led by NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois.
Silence is a powerful force that, like other forms of non-violent protests, holds a mirror to the brutality of one’s opponents. On June 17, we will hold up a mirror to New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy. Like thousands of activists before us, we will channel the power of our silence to end the use of racial profiling by the New York Police Department. And the more silent marchers who join us, the louder our collective voice will be.
For more Information about the march, visit www.silentmarchnyc.org.