BROOKLYN, N.Y. The New York Police Department is running wild in Black and Latino neighborhoods, using racial profiling as a tool of choice, charges a group of students and residents of Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.
The latest incident began May 21, when police arrested over 30 youths, some as young as 13, walking to the subway, which they intended to ride to the wake of a slain friend in Coney Island. While police have said that the friend, Donnell McFarland, who was 18, was a gang leader, and that the teens were fellow gang members causing trouble, there is virtually no evidence to back up this claim.
The mainly Black and Latino youth were arrested on misdemeanor charges, such as disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly. After police searched them, they were found to have no drugs and no weapons only notes from their school giving them permission to attend the funeral. Although they did not resist arrest, a number were held in prison for 36 hours and denied food and water for up to 12 hours.
Many of the youth, most of whom attend Bushwick Community High School (BCHS), were wearing shirts commemorating McFarland’s life. The police confiscated the shirts, calling them "evidence."
"We just wanted to mourn our friend’s death," said one of the young men who were arrested. "We didn’t have a chance to do that. We were locked up for 36 hours. We didn’t even have anything to eat for 12 hours. Our parents brought us food, and they [the police] didn’t give us the food that they brought us. It was a real agonizing experience."
According to several accounts, the police were lying in wait: the students were less than a block into their journey when they were surrounded and arrested.
Dana Jordan, a BCHS student who helped form Students Concerned about Racial Profiling (SCARP), told the World, "There was no gang affiliation. They [the arrestees] were not even involved in a gang." She said her group meets daily at the high school and is working to find ways to end racial profiling.
Data provided by Make the Road By Walking, a community organization in Brooklyn, shows that in 2006 over 85 percent of the people stopped by the police citywide were Black or Latino, and that 90 percent of the stops resulted in no summons meaning no crime was committed.
Tabari Bomani, a teacher at BCHS, said the problem is systemic. Certain high-profile incidents occur, like the recent shooting of Sean Bell, and police brutality comes into the public spotlight. But, he said, police brutality has not disappeared at any point.
"If you talk to Latino youth, African American youth, poor youth," Bomani said, "they will tell you what they go through on a daily basis. Everything from cops cursing at them, to pushing them, to arresting them for no reason, or making them run their pockets because they didn’t like the way they responded to them. This is what people go through every day."
City Council Member Charles Barron, Make the Road By Walking and SCARP have called for Brooklyn District Attorney Hynes to drop the charges against the youths and to charge the police involved for violating anti-profiling laws.
Saying that poverty and crime are connected, Barron said the city should reopen recreational centers and fix the schools. He noted that the city plans to give hundreds of millions of dollars to a private developer, Forest City Ratner, to build luxury apartments and a sports
arena. Pour that amount of money into the neighborhoods, Barron said, "and watch crime go down."
In a related story, civil rights lawyer Michael Warren and his wife Evelyn were arrested last week for "interfering with an arrest" when they demanded that police stop punching a man in handcuffs. Both Warren and his wife were punched by police, witnesses said.