Special to South Florida Times
NEW YORK CITY — More than 50,000 civil and human rights advocates and outraged community members marched Sunday, Father's Day, in silent solidarity down Fifth Avenue in New York City to bring attention to the city’s racial profiling practice, and to protest its abusive and discriminatory stop-and-frisk policing practice.
The event was organized by the NAACP, the 1199 chapter of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Action Network and was endorsed and supported by hundreds of rights advocates, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, Communities United for Police Reform and community organizations from across New York City.
“Today we are marching in silence to call for an end to racial profiling,” said NAACP President/CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Stop-and-frisk is the most massive local racial profiling program in the country. All children, of every color, should feel protected by our police, not threatened, harassed or intimidated. Stop-and-frisk is a violation of NYPD policy, our Constitution and the basic values of liberty and justice for all.”
The tactic of a silent march was first used in 1917 by the NAACP — then just eight years old — to draw attention to race riots that tore through communities in East St. Louis, Ill., and build national opposition to lynching. Now, 95 years later, the decision to hold a similar protest was based on the seriousness of the need to put an end to racial profiling practices.
“Stop-and-frisk is a concern for all communities in the city as the young men who are targeted are our sons, brothers, nephews, future fathers and community leaders,” said George Gresham, president of the 1199 SEIU chapter. “That's why this diverse mobilization of civil rights, faith, labor and community groups marched today in silent protest of this failed policy. New Yorkers of all backgrounds are sending a strong message that racial profiling endangers our children and the safety of our communities as a whole.”
Police officers stopped nearly 700,000 people last year, 87 percent of them black or Latino. Of those stopped, nearly 90 percent were innocent of any wrongdoing.
“Stop-and-frisk policing violates our civil rights as citizens, humiliates our personhood, violates racial profiling laws and violates our constitutional right to probable cause,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network. “Therefore, it is illegal, immoral and must be ended. You cannot mend bias. You must end bias."
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said protecting the safety of all New Yorkers and reducing crime in all parts of the city “does not require turning any neighborhood or any block into a Constitution-free zone.”
“Contrary to the mayor and police commissioner’s assertions, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk regime has done little to remove firearms from the streets. Instead, it has corroded the ability of communities of color to trust and respect the police,” Lieberman said.
This report was provided by the NAACP.
Photo: Benjamin Jealous