Fed up with what they believe are discriminatory practices by the NYPD, more than 800 New Yorkers rallied last Thursday at City Hall.
Among other things they called for is an end to stop-and-frisk, which overwhelmingly affects black and Latino youth and has become the most visible example of police discrimination and abuse of power.
“Stop-and-frisk makes youth of color feel like we are criminals and not welcome in our own city,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo of the Brooklyn-based VOCAL-NY, one of the groups that participated in the rally,
The problem is serious enough to demand an urgent solution. During the Bloomberg administration, the New York Police Department stopped more than 4 million people. Yet, nearly 90% of those stops did not result in summons or arrests.
To understand how Carrasquillo and thousands like him feel, one only has to know that 85% of those stopped were of black and Latino.
“New Yorkers are tired of waiting for justice and reforms,” said Yul-san Liem, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, which organized the rally.
“Our communities are standing up to reject discriminatory policing like stop-and-frisk abuses, surveillance of Muslim communities, and the lack of police accountability that have continued for too long,” she added.
But the rally was more than an act of protest against police tactics, it was also a powerful show of support for a legislative package of police reforms, known as the Community Safety Act pending in the City Council.
Composed of four bills, the package has the support of the majority of Council members. Its main sponsors are Brooklyn Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander. In addition, rally organizers said the bills are endorsed by more than 50 community advocacy organizations throughout the city.
“The Community Safety Act represents reforms our city’s police department needs, and the City Council must pass these bills,” Liem said.
One of the bills protects against unlawful searches, a second creates a strong ban on profiling by the NYPD and expands protections against profiling based on age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, housing status, language and disability, in addition to race, religion or ethnicity. The third bill requires NYPD officers to identify themselves and explain their actions, and the fourth establishes an NYPD inspector general to provide independent oversight.
A hearing on the package will be held Oct . 10 at City Hall, followed by public hearings on stop-and-frisk practices in Brooklyn and Queens later in the month.
“Young people in many neighborhoods have come to expect that they will be stopped and searched on their way to school, when hanging out with their friends, and even inside their own apartment buildings,” said Vincent Warren, Executive Director of Center for Constitutional Rights . “The transparency, oversight, and accountability provided by the Community Safety Act will be a critical step towards preventing these kinds of abuses.”
The Legal Aid Society, Make the Road NY, Picture the Homeless, VOCAL-NY, New York Communities for Change and 21 other groups are members of Communities United for Police Reform, which is spearheading the campaign against police discriminatory practices and support of the Community Safety Act.
As Marie Pierre, Chair of NYCC Board, Brownsville Chapter , reminded the NYPD, their job “is to protect our communities not to target them.”
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