Telling Our Stories: MXGM Member Talks NYPD Violence and Calls for Passage of the Community Safety Act

Oct 25, 2012 in New York, PSDC Blog

Greetings. My name is Djibril Toure and I am here today as a lifelong Brooklyn resident and member of the Malcolm X Grassroots to lend my voice to those calling for a change in the NYPD’s Stop & Frisk program, and passage of the Community Safety Act.

I am a college graduate, musician and business owner and I have directly experienced the racially biased stop and frisk policies of the NYPD.  I have had the disheartening experience of walking down the street in my own community where I grew up, being stopped for no reason, forced to stand against a wall and being illegally searched by four officers who demanded that I show them some ID or go to jail. This experience repeated itself so many times over the years that I became involved in providing assistance to others who had experienced the same or many times much worse treatment, sometimes resulting in physical injuries. I have heard too many stories of the humiliation and frustration of regular law abiding community residents who are repeatedly stop & frisked or tricked into consenting to a search. This is an all too common occurrence across neighborhoods and communities in this city. Too many of my peers have shared similarly frustrating stories of being stopped and searched, for no apparent reason without explanation.  The overaggressive policing approach taken in these communities has led to a widespread feeling of mistrust towards the police.

The issue of consent to a search without a warrant is a particularly important one. (Intro. 801) of the Community Safety Act would require that NYPD officers provide their name and rank to the subjects of law enforcement activity, such as New Yorkers being stopped and frisked. The officer would also have to provide the specific reason for the stop and a business card to the person being stopped that includes information on how to file a complaint. In my experience, this is a key issue that must be addressed because often when people in my community are approached by undercover officers for questioning, they do not even initially understand that they are dealing with a police encounter. This often leads to people not being able to identify who they were stopped by. In my personal experience, I have on several occasions witnessed officers refusing to provide their name and badge number – or even providing a false one. Continue reading

The Gendered Violence of Stop-and-Frisk

[“Stop and Frisk” is the name of the New York Police Department program of Racial Profiling–of stalking and harassing communities which have been targeted.  In 2011, 87% of those stopped and frisked were black and brown–(41% were black and brown youth)–and hounded many other people of color, Muslims, women, transgender, and others perceived by police to be suspicious by dint of appearance (not because of criminal activity).  The protests against this program continue to grow, and are becoming more focused on the systems of oppression that his program is designed to enforce. — Frontlines ed.]

Though racist stop-and-frisk policies have been framed as primarily police violence against men of color (black and Latino men account for 40% of the stops from last year), women and transgender people are also subject to the violence of random police frisks on the street.  The New York Times recently profiled several women who have experienced stop-and-frisk in order to “increase safety:”

Crystal Pope, 22, said she and two female friends were frisked by male officers last year in Harlem Heights. The officers said they were looking for a rapist. It was an early spring evening at about 6:30 p.m. The three women sat talking on a bench near Ms. Pope’s home on 143rd Street when the officers pulled up and asked for identification, she said.

“They tapped around the waistline of my jeans,” Ms. Pope said. “They tapped the back pockets of my jeans, around my buttock. It was kind of disrespectful and degrading. It was uncalled-for. It made no sense. How are you going to stop three females when you are supposedly looking for a male rapist?” Continue reading

ACLU Sues On Behalf Of PA Man Arrested For Recording Police Officer

By Guest Blogger on ThinkProgress.org, July 19, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pennsylvania resident Gregory Rizer, who was arrested in January for recording a police officer aggressively questioning his quadriplegic friend. The officer also confiscated Rizer’s cell phone.

When Rizer complained to the mayor’s office about the arrest, the Point Marion Police Department arrested him at home and charged him with violating Pennsylvania’s wiretap law, which bans audio recording unless all parties consent. The district attorney has since removed the charges and returned Rizer’s cell phone – without the recording. The ACLU argues that Rizer was within his rights to record the officer because “the state’s Wiretap Act does not apply if the person being recorded does not have a reasonable ‘expectation of privacy.’” ACLU cooperating lawyer Glen Downey explained,

“The explosion of technology that allows almost every citizen to document and record the interactions between police and civilians makes it incumbent that both the officers and those seeking to record them understand that officers cannot shield themselves from public scrutiny by invoking wiretap laws. Police officers performing their official duties do not possess the requisite reasonable expectation of privacy necessary to be covered by the statute.”

There have been reports from across the country of police officers interfering with cell phone recording of their actions. Earlier this month, the New York City Police Department put out a flyer warning against a couple who record “stop-and-frisk” searches in the city. New York’s ACLU chapter released a phone app, “Stop-and-Frisk Watch,” to help New Yorkers hold police officers executing these controversial searches accountable.

Last week, New Jersey’s ACLU chapter released a similar app, “Police Tape,” an Android phone app that allows users to discreetly videotape and record police officers. The app also explains American civil rights and allows users to send recordings to ACLU databases for backup storage.

– Ben Sherman

Stop-and-Frisk Goes to Frisco

By Glen Ford, Tuesday, 07/03/2012

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The “progressive” Chinese-American mayor of “liberal” San Francisco is considering instituting stop-and-frisk – which no doubt is already informally practiced by his city’s police. Mayor Ed Lee’s intention to endorse legal apartheid puts him in the historical American mainstream, since “stop-and-frisk never stopped in the United States.” The practice stretches, unbroken, from slavery times. “If the laws are applied unequally, then there is no law, and the police are nothing but an occupying army enforcing martial law” – selectively, against Black and brown people.

Stop-and-Frisk Goes to Frisco

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

If skin color is treated as reasonable suspicion, then that is an apartheid state.”

The Mayor of San Francisco, the first Chinese-American to hold that office, is considering instituting stop-and-frisk [6] – but mostly in minority neighborhoods, of course. Mayor Ed Lee is all excited about joining the Church of the New Jim Crow, whose leading deacons are New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter. Like them, Lee claims he just wants to get rid of guns, although after ten years and the humiliation of literally millions of Black and brown men on the streets of New York, Mayor Bloomberg can come up with no compelling statistics on stop-and-frisk and gun crimes. Neither can Mayor Nutter, a stop-and-frisk fiend, whose city is under a court consent decree [7] to curb the practice.

San Francisco’s mayor describes himself as a “progressive,” but we all know that word doesn’t mean much of anything anymore, certainly not in the Age Of Obama. The cops in his city are already practicing stop-and-frisk on the same people and neighborhoods the mayor wants to target, and have doubtless stepped up their racial profiling since hearing about the mayor’s remarks. The fact is,stop-and-frisk never stopped in the United States. Stop-and-frisk was invented in the slaveholding states as a matter of daily practice, when Black people carried around permission from their masters to move outside his property, and free Blacks had to show papers proving their status. Stop-and-frisk was part of the Black Codes following Emancipation. The Old Jim Crow was designed to control Black people’s physical and social movements, and African Americans who could not prove that they were employed, through documentation or some white person’s word, were sent to prison work camps – the genesis of the penal system in the South. There’s nothing new about stop-and-frisk, although it is central to the New Jim Crow, a racial caste system whose primary institution is mass Black incarceration. Stop-and-frisk was the hallmark of apartheid in racist South Africa. A variant is enforced in Israeli-occupied Palestine.

If there is equal protection under the law, then stop-and-frisk is illegal.”

Stop-and-frisk is necessary wherever racial supremacists want to separate those whose human rights are to be respected from those who are outside of legal protection.

If there is equal protection under the law, then stop-and-frisk is illegal. Period. The law applies in those sections of New York and Philadelphia and San Francisco that have high crime rates, just as it does in Bloomberg’s and Nutter’s and Lee’s neighborhoods. At least, that’s what the U.S. Constitution says. If the laws are applied unequally, then there is no law, and the police are nothing but an occupying army enforcing martial law. As one of the signs in New York’s recent “Silent March” against stop-and-frisk read: “Skin Color Is Not Reasonable Suspicion [8].” If skin color is treated as reasonable suspicion, then that is an apartheid state.

Mayor Lee will surely caution his police to be courteous as they enforce apartheid on Black and brown San Franciscans, just as Mayor Bloomberg is now urging his cops to do. But there is no fundamental distinction between polite applications of apartheid and the rougher kind. How do you politely tell someone that they are lesser human beings, existing outside of constitutional protections, exceptions to the rule of equal treatment under the law?

Either stop-and-frisk is a crime against humanity, or Black people have no rights that police are bound to respect. There is no gray area, just as there is no white law.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com [9].

Formerly Incarcerated Issue Statement Regarding NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Policy

Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement

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June 17th 2012 Silent March against Racial Profiling

Letter in Solidarity

There comes a time when the American people must recognize that we lead the world in prison cells.  The American people must also recognize that these cells do not fill themselves, as mass incarceration is the result of policy decisions.  The American people must finally recognize that all of us are not created equal in the dark shadows of the prisons, the courthouses, the legislatures, or the New York City Police Department.  The Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement stands together with those who believe the “Stop and Frisk” policy belongs in fascist countries with brutal rulers, not in the United States of America.

On Ellis Island there is a plaque reading “Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  A torch is held aloft to the Atlantic Ocean, while Lady Liberty’s back is turned away from us.  What has been going on behind her back has been police tactics that have no connection to crime rates.  We can look at the data, compare the rates among different neighborhoods, compare New York City to other large cities, and we can see the one clearest fact:  People of Color are the ones being stopped.  Young Black and Latino men living in the communities targeted for high rates of crime are being hassled by the police in this city; they are being  targeted and dehumanized by tactics that demean and oppress them as young people, they are being put up against the wall and frisked, only to find nothing, and then released to go about their business.  These hassles, these frisks and uses of force do not make our communities safer, and do not make our children safer.

The NYPD are stopping more Black and Latino people than actually live in the city, harassing nearly 700,000 people last year alone.  They say that this is because crime victims are predominantly Black and Latino, yet in most crimes the race of the perpetrator is not even reported.  They say crime is going down, but they don’t say crime is going down at a similar pace in all major cities.  When we look at the statistics, we see that the ten whitest areas, like the Upper East Side and Bensonhurst have crime dropping at double the rate as the ten most Black and Latino, such as BedStuy, Central Harlem and Hunts Point.  Coincidentally, people in these ten precincts, all of which are over 90% Black and Latino, are stopped by the police four times more than those in the ten whitest precincts.  The NYPD’s own statistics show that the more you Stop and Frisk, the less crime goes down.  The people ask Bloomberg for books, teachers, and classrooms, yet to the Black and Brown people of this city: he sends guns, police, and jails. Continue reading

“You can clean up a pig, put a ribbon on its tail, spray it with perfume, but it is still a pig”

[The capitalist state in the US has, from its very beginning, enforced its subjugation of the Africans enslaved, of indigenous who survived conquest and genocide, and many others subordinated through colonialism, including millions drawn from foreign conquests for cheap labor in the US.  These oppressed peoples have continued to be subjected to forms of “racist profiling” at the hands of police and other repressive agencies–harassment, stalking, persecution–which in New York City goes by the name “stop and frisk.”  After years of literally millions of these encounters with abusive police–unquestioned by the mass media–massive protests have brought the issue to public light.  Now, as the political price for this ongoing abuse continues to rise, there are “reform” moves–for the police to be more polite, to issue apologies along with the abuse,  or for “stop and frisk” programs to get new names.  But  communities long targeted for such abuse have always known: even smiling police are still pigs in oppressed communities. The New York Times article, below, looks at the effects of this reforms. — Frontlines ed.]

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“The officers asked for ID. They threw in the word ‘sir.’ They are trying to belittle you by saying ‘sir,’ like being sarcastic in a way, like, ‘I’m really your sir. You have to do what I say.’’ — Barlo Jones, 28, Brownsville, Brooklyn

Rude or Polite, City’s Officers Leave Raw Feelings in Stops

By WENDY RUDERMAN, New Yok Times, June 26, 2012

Most of the time, the officers swoop in, hornetlike, with a command to stop: “Yo! You, come here. Get against the wall.”

They batter away with questions, sometimes laced with profanity, racial slurs and insults: “Where’s the weed?” “Where’s the guns?”

The officers tell those who ask why they have been stopped to shut up, using names like immigrant, old man or “bro.”

Next comes the frisk, the rummaging through pockets and backpacks. Then they are gone.

Other times, the officers are polite, their introductions almost gentle. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Can you step over here, sir?” “We’d like to talk to you.”

The questions are probing, authoritative, but less accusatory. “What are you doing here?” “Do you live here?” “Can I see some identification, please?” During the pat-down, they ask, “Do you have anything on you?” They nudge further: “You don’t mind if I search you, do you?” They explain that someone of a matching description robbed a store a few days ago, or that the stop is a random one, part of a program in a high-crime area. Then they apologize for the stop and say the person is free to go.

In interviews with 100 people who said they had been stopped by the New York police in neighborhoods where the practice is most common, many said the experience left them feeling intruded upon and humiliated. And even when officers extended niceties, like “Have a nice night,” or called them “sir” and “ma’am,” people said they questioned whether the officer was being genuine.

Michael Delgado, 18, said he was last stopped on Grant Street in East New York, Brooklyn. “I was walking, and a cop said, ‘Where’s the weed?’ ” he recalled. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘Yo, this guy’s a racist.’ He started frisking me, his hands were in my pockets, but I didn’t say anything because my mom always tells me: ‘No altercations. Let him do his thing.’ ”

When the stop-and-frisk was done, Mr. Delgado said, the officer left him with a casual aside to stay safe.

“Stay safe?” Mr. Delgado said. “After he just did all that?”

Last year, city police officers stopped nearly 686,000 people, 84 percent of them black or Latino. The vast majority — 88 percent of the stops — led to neither an arrest nor a summons, although officers said they had enough reasonable suspicion to conduct a frisk in roughly half of the total stops, according to statistics provided by the New York Police Department and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Continue reading

Thousands march in silence against NYPD’s ‘Stop and Frisk’

Democracy Now’s coverage of the Stop ‘Stop and Frisk’ march

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By Frederick Bernas, CNN — June 18, 2012

New York (CNN) — Rather than celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday afternoon, Horace Russell marched with several thousand people to take a stand against the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy.

“I feel it every single day, practically,” said Russell, who works as a teacher in the Bronx. “I’ve been pulled over and pushed against fences, frisked, but have never been arrested.”

Russell’s story sounded familiar to many of Sunday’s marchers, who want to see action from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — either by abolishing or reforming stop-and-frisk.

Last year, nearly 685,000 people were stopped by officers in cases that ended with no meaningful charge, according to police department statistics. Of these, 87% were African-American or Latino, the police department says.

“They profile me because I’m a Rastafarian and I have dreadlocks, so therefore I get pulled over just for my looks,” said Russell.

Sunday’s silent march started at 110th Street and headed down Fifth Avenue, ending at 78th Street after passing Bloomberg’s townhouse on 79th Street.

“I don’t know a single black or Latino male who doesn’t say he is basically afraid to be out on the streets,” said the Rev. Stephen Phelps, a senior minister at the Riverside Church near West Harlem. He was one of a diverse group of faith leaders, and representatives of some 300 organizations , brought together by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Continue reading

The Rhetoric of “Colorblindness” and the Reality of Racial Profiling and Mass Incarceration

WBAI’s Radio Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report
Monday, May 28, 7- 9 pm EST, over 99.5 FM
or streaming live at
http://www.wbai.org
Produced & Hosted by Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash
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A Two-Hour Special!
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
With Michelle Alexander, human rights activist, litigator, best-selling author and NY activists working to stop Stop & Frisk

Racism is rampant, as evidenced by the more than 685,000 stops and frisks within a 12 month period, of overwhelmingly African-American and Latino residents of this city.  African-Americans and Latinos are subject to profiling, harassment and criminalization by the NYPD’s practices. The Mayor’s and NYPD’s policing policies resulted in the killing of an unarmed Rahmarley Graham, 18 years old in his own home.The Stop and Frisk policies, the concentration on marijuana arrests, oftentimes the result of illegal searches fuel the frightening and unwarranted explosion in incarceration rates that are occurring throughout the country. And, mass incarceration, a major manifestation of institutionalized racism has permanent consequences. For, even after release those who have been behind the walls are stigmatized.  They are subject to exclusion from essential economic, and political opportunity – they become subject to a new “Jim Crow”.

Recently, Michelle Alexander spoke to an overflow, cheering audience at Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church to announce the launch of the new paperback edition of “The New Jim Crow” which is now # 6 on the”N.Y. Times Bestseller List”.  She offered a bold and innovative argument that mass incarceration amounts to a devastating system of deliberate,racial control.  In her incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander argues that we have not ended racial caste in America, we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting blackmen and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary mechanism of racial control, even as it proclaims the principle of color blindness.  Just as it took a mass movement to destroy the Jim Crow system, Alexander argues that it will take a new mass movement to destroy the new caste system which she has labeled “The New Jim Crow”.  And this new movement is growing and being nurtured by Michelle Alexander.  And, her analysis of “The New JimCrow” is helping to build this movement.


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New York: Protesters on trial for challenging NYPD “Stop and Frisk”, Racial Profiling

[Last year, New York police stopped, searched, and harassed 684,oo0 people with the racist “stop and frisk” policy.  The heavy cloud of oppression follows each step of millions of black and brown folks, in a pattern which is systematically organized and enforced.  The defiant stance of these “anti-racial profiling” protesters on trial must be supported, and spread, to every street in every city.  —  Frontlines ed.]

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Activists on Trial for Arrests During NYPD Protest 

By JENNIFER PELTZ Associated Press
NEW YORK April 30, 2012 (AP)

Twenty activists who converged on a police station to protest a controversial police technique went on trial Monday in a case that they hoped would highlight their cause but prosecutors called a simple matter of breaking the law.

The demonstrators, who include ministers, local activists and Princeton University scholar and civil rights advocate Cornel West, lined three rows of courtroom seats in one of the biggest group trials of protesters in the city in recent years. Supporters waited in line for spots.

The demonstrators were arrested on disorderly conduct charges in October outside a Harlem police station while decrying the New York Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people who are acting suspiciously or meet crime suspects’ descriptions, according to police.

Police say the practice has proven vital to curbing crime. Opponents say it amounts to racial profiling and unfairly targets innocent people.

“The system is breaking the spirit of too many young people,” West, a professor of African-American studies and the author of books including “Race Matters,” said outside court. “We were willing to be arrested, and we’re willing to go to jail.”

Cornell West
[AP–FILE- In this Oct. 21, 2011, file photo, Political activist, Dr. Cornel West, center, is taken into custody by New York City police officers at a “Stop and Frisk” policy protest in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood in New York. Joining nearly two dozen people, West goes to trial on Monday, April 30, 2012, in New York after being arrested at an October demonstration against the New York police department’s practice of stopping and frisking hundreds of thousands of people each year as a crime-fighting tool. (AP Photo/Stephanie Keith, File)]

Continue reading

New York: “Operation Clean Halls” and racial profiling at home

New York police sued over patrols inside apartment buildings

March 29, 2012|Jonathan Allen | Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A civil liberties group said on Wednesday it was suing the New York City Police Department for patrolling inside apartment buildings, saying residents are routinely stopped while simply going to check their mail.

Nearly every day police “unlawfully” stop and question residents of apartment buildings enrolled in a program called Operation Clean Halls, according to the lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and a dozen tenants.

“If you live in one of the thousands of apartment buildings enrolled in Operation Clean Halls, you are a suspect for no other reason than where you live,” Donna Lieberman, the NYCLU’s executive director, said at a press conference.

“Taking out the garbage, checking the mail or, yes, even going out for a pack of Skittles, can result in you being detained, thrown against the wall for police questioning, and even arrested for trespassing if you so much as dare to leave your apartment without an ID, particularly if you’re a young black or Latino man,” she said. Continue reading

Mosques, students and NGOs: Journalist blows the lid off police spying on NYC Muslims

September 8, 2011

Two weeks after an Associated Press investigation exposed the New York Police Department (NYPD)’s  ”demographic units” used to spy on a wide array of Muslim New Yorkers, a journalist has published startling new details that reveal the breadth of that operation.  The details are sure to raise new alarms in the Muslim-American community in New York City (NYC) as the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approach.

Leonard Levitt, a long-time writer on the NYPD beat, reports:

The New York City Police Department has been spying on hundreds of Muslim mosques, schools, businesses, student groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals, NYPD Confidential has learned.

The spying operation has targeted virtually every level of Muslim life in New York City, according to a trove of pages of Intelligence Division documents obtained by NYPD Confidential.

The documents do not specify whether the police have evidence or solid suspicions of criminality to justify their watching the Muslim groups.

The breadth and scope of the surveillance described in the documents suggest that the police have been painting with a broad brush and may have targeted subjects without specific tips about wrongdoing.

Specifically, Levitt reveals exactly who the NYPD spied on:

The NYPD’s spying operation has compiled information on 250 mosques, 12 Islamic schools, 31 Muslim student associations, 263 places it calls “ethnic hotspots,” such as businesses and restaurants, as well as 138 “persons of interest,” according to the Intel documents.

Police have singled out 53 mosques, four Islamic schools and seven Muslim student associations as institutions of “concern.” They have also labeled 42 individuals as top tier “persons of interest.”

At least 32 mosques have been infiltrated by either undercover officers, informants, or both, according to documents, which are dated between 2003 and 2006 and marked “secret.”

The NYPD has also been monitoring Muslim student associations at seven local colleges: City, Baruch, Hunter, Queens, LaGuardia, St. John’s and Brooklyn.

The department calls the two student groups at Brooklyn and Baruch colleges “of concern” and has sent undercover detectives to spy on them, the documents reveal. Continue reading