Thousands of demonstrators marched up Manhattan streets in total silence yesterday to protest the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program, which research has revealed primarily targets young black and Hispanic males in the city.
The march was endorsed by a coalition of 299 groups in the city, including the NAACP, unions, religious groups and Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arab, Jewish groups, and as many as 29 gay, lesbian and transgender groups. The march also included the four major Democratic candidates for mayor of New York—Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president; and William C. Thompson, the former city comptroller—which the New York Times noted indicates the broad coalition of people and groups opposed to the NYPD plan. For the second straight weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took to the pulpit at a black church to defend the policy, which he says needs to be amended, not discarded, because it has gotten guns and criminals off the streets.
But critics counter that cities across the country have similarly lowered their crime rates without using the oppressive tactics of the NYPD.
“Stop-and-frisk is a political tool, victimizing one group of people so another group feels protected,” said Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP. “It’s humiliating hundreds of thousands of people.”
This civic action all started with a shocking report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which found that during the 10 years of the Bloomberg administration, the police have performed 4,356,927 stops, including 685,724 last year. Among African-American males ages 14 to 24, the number of stops last year was greater than their total population. Of the nearly 700,000 people who were stopped last year, 87 percent of them were black or Latino—and of those stopped, more than half were also frisked.