Earlier this week, NAACP civil rights and labor leaders held a press conference to announce the Silent March to End Stop and Frisk on Father’s Day, June 17, 2012.
Stop and Frisk is a policy that allows the New York Police Department to stop and pat down any individual they see fit. The problem is that 87% of those individuals are people of color. According to a report released last week by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NYPD stopped 685,724 people last year alone.; cops stopped more Black men than there are living in New York City. Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly continue their defense of the program despite the racial disparities, claiming that it has lead to a decrease in violent crime.
However, that claim does not appear to be true. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman says, “The NYPD’s own data undermine many of the Bloomberg administration’s justifications for the stop-and-frisk program. Contrary to the mayor and police commissioner’s assertions, the massive spike in the number of stops has done little to remove firearms from the streets. Instead, it has violated the constitutional rights of millions of people and corroded the ability of communities of color to trust and respect the police.”
Furthermore, the march organizers point out that the use of racial profiling to determine who is stopped is not justified by arrests or charges. Of those 685,000 people stopped, 88% (605,000) walked away with no charges filed by police.
The march organizers certainly have wind at their backs and political will and momentum is being cultivated particularly in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Another case closer to home, the killing of an unarmed teenager Ramarley Graham just this past February has created a sense of urgency to end this policy for good.
The Father’s Day march will be a silent march. Silent marches for civil rights is a tradition that dates all the way back to 1917. The NAACP held the country’s first silent march in New York in the aftermath of lynchings and race riots sweeping through the southern states. At that time the silent march was lead by W.E.B. DuBois; this year’s march will include NAACP president Ben Jealous and the Reverend Al Sharpton as well as the Marian Wright Edelman of the Child’s Defense Fund.
Hopefully, the silent march down 5th avenue next month will put the national spotlight on a very problematic discriminatory policing practice that does not appear effective in reducing crime and yet only results in the embarrassment and dehumanization of young men and women of color.
Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst and soon-to-be attorney. You can follow her on Twitter: @ZerlinaMaxwell