Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Impressive coalition against stop & frisk

White New York has been largely comfortable with the criminalization of black and Hispanic youth over the years as evidenced by the steady support for all sorts of invasive policing techniques inspired by the ‘broken windows’ anti-crime theories of the Giuliani era. But a combination of low crime rates and a constant stream of grotesque police violence has begun to turn the tide against the most egregious manifestation of how poor kids from the rougher neighborhoods are made guilty until proven innocent by the security apparatus of our so-open-minded city—the so-called ‘stop-and-frisk’ procedure.

A friend and I joined the Father’s Day march against the practice, now set to rack up over 800,000 street detentions this year, a 20 percent increase over 2011. That may not be one stop for every non-white kid in the five boroughs, but it might as well be. Tens of thousands of New York teens are accustomed to being treated as criminals based on the way they look, and anyone who denies that this constitutes racial profiling is not proficient in the English language.

What’s worse is that stop-and-frisk is part and parcel of the tendency of NYPD officers to blast away and ask questions (such as, Is this person armed?) later. The indictment for manslaughter of the cop who chased Ramarley Graham into his Bronx bathroom and shot him in the stomach is a good sign, but Graham’s father, who joined the march Sunday, won’t ever enjoy Fathers Day again nonetheless. If black kids like his dead son weren’t systematically targeted for pathetic pot busts to get them quickly registered in the criminal surveillance system, the circumstances that led to the shooting might have played out quite differently.

There were, I would say, 30 to 50 thousand people on that march, lots of organizations, union contingents, gay groups, Muslims, and plenty of sympathetic individuals. It was a silent parade down Fifth Avenue to 79th Street and was only disrupted by a band of demented ultraleftists in front the Met Museum screaming their fool heads off, based on the logic that that their shrill message represented the correct line, which gave them the right to break the agreement not to sloganeer respected by the other 99.99% of us. If the cops planted them as agents provocateurs, it was a waste of money.

Police presence was slight and very low-key, unlike their heavy-handed behavior at other recent downtown demos. I assume they didn’t want to draw any further attention to the event given that it was an impressively dignified show of community opposition to their own practices. Mayor Bloomberg dared to go in front of a black congregation last week and invoke Martin Luther King in defense of his racist policy, but even conservative church ladies—plenty of whom were marching Sunday, too—have had enough. People do want protection against crime, and the residents of Harlem and Brownsville more than anyone. But criminalizing a whole class of people based on their age and color just won’t do.

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