Skip to main content

The Queens District Attorney in New York City thinks that he is prosecuting four people for civil disobedience in front of a police station. The Queens District Attorney is very wrong. While four men's acts of civil disobedience may technically be on trial what is really on trial is New York City's demeaning, racist and unconstitutional Stop & Frisk policy.

Jamel Mims stop & frisk

Approximately one year ago New York City teacher and activist Jamel Mins, organizer Carl Dix, Robert Parson and Morgan Rhodewalt sat down in front of one of the police stations responsible for some of the highest rates of Stop & Frisk actions in the city. They made quite a stir; it ended with the four of them and a number of others arrested. The District Attorney, deciding to be an asshole, threw the book at them, thereby turning the case into a cause celebre. The trial is underway now -- you can read a blog about the trial at StopMassIncarceration.org.

As Jamel Mims wrote a few days before the trial began

Beginning Tuesday October 23, I will be on trial along with Carl Dix, who, with Cornel West, initiated the 2011 campaign of nonviolent protest to stop Stop-and-Frisk... For less than ten minutes of protesting stop-and-frisk outside of the doors 103rd precinct, which houses the NYPD officers who put fifty shots into Sean Bell, three co-defendants and I now find ourselves facing up to a year of jail time... the DA has twice bumped up the charges in the last month, and has made it very clear that the prosecutorial apparatus intends to place us behind bars.
This is the unfortunate price these men may have to pay to have called attention to this reprehensible policy, but at least their message is getting through. The struggle against Stop & Frisk is growing daily as Jamel notes.
A year ago... those who got stopped and frisked thought there was nothing one could do about it. Now, the stop-and-frisk policy and the horrors it inflicts are going viral in mainstream society. Copwatch and videos of NYPD stops garner thousands of views, and nearly every day there are articles or opinion pieces about stop-and-frisk. Potential mayoral candidates have even had to confront this, as politicians line up to claim their opposition to the policy, or express their desire to reform or modify it in the ongoing pursuit of public opinion.

What is Stop & Frisk ?




From Wikipedia:
The stop-and-frisk program of New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department to stop, question and, if the circumstances of the stop warrant it, conduct a frisk of the person stopped. About 684,000 people were stopped in 2011. New York residents have questioned whether these stops are based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. According to NYPD statistics, over 80% of those stopped have been completely innocent. The vast majority of these people were African-American or Latino.
To the NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, it's a way of getting guns off the street. To almost all white people, it's something that never happens. To your random cop, it's the way to show who the real boss is on the streets on an otherwise boring day. But to the people it happens to, it's a demeaning and potentially physically dangerous process. Not to mention the threat of being unjustly caught up in the criminal injustice system (C.f. The New Jim Crow, by Michele Alexander). Or of being shot dead in the back "trying to escape."

Stop & Frisk effectively gives the police the right to stop anyone, anywhere and search them, completely disregarding the Fourth Amendment. Why? Because they can always come up with some "reason" to justify a stop and then a search. Target wears baggy pants? Stop 'em. Looks nervous? Must be up to something. Frisk 'em! Looks calm and cool? Must be a drug dealer. Stop 'em! Has a twitch? Frisk 'em!

Of course if they really did stop everyone, everywhere, people would quickly be up in arms. Instead, they search lower class people and almost always people of color in the full knowledge that nobody who's anybody gave a FF that they are doing so. Until recently.

Not only is Stop & Frisk now on trial in a Queens courthouse, it is being judged all across New York City and the nation.


Stop & Frisk is on trial in the Press

.

New York City's Stop & Frisk program has been called out as unjust multiple times by the New York Times' editorial page. See, for example, Losing Faith in Stop & Frisk and Stop & Frisk, Part 3.

A number of other New York papers have also been documenting the abuses of this policy as well, and even those who rail against those who want it stopped are bringing the issue to the fore.


Stop & Frisk is on trial in Federal Court

.

The policy is now being challenged by a Federal lawsuit, Floyd v New York City, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. is a federal class action lawsuit filed against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the City of New York that challenges the NYPD's practices of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and frisks. These NYPD practices have led to a dramatic increase in the number of suspicion-less stop-and-frisks per year in the city, with the majority of stops in communities of color.
The Federal District court trial is scheduled to start in March, 2013.

Another lawsuit, Ligon v City of New York is contesting New York's Operation Clean Halls program, which allows police to Stop & Frisk people in private apartment complexes (and no, I'm not making this up).

Even a Bronx District Attorney became so disillusioned with the policy that she questioned whether it made sense to prosecute cases arising from this policy.

Jeannette Rucker, a veteran prosecutor, recounted that her office began to have questions about many of the Police Department's trespassing arrests in the past several years. She said Bronx judges "just started dismissing these cases left and right" because they believed that the officers had no legitimate legal reason for approaching the people who had been arrested -- sometimes merely because they had been seen entering or leaving a Clean Halls building.
This case has already begun in federal District Court, where, on October 15th, 2012, Judge Scheindlin heard a motion for a preliminary injunction designed to halt such practices immediately.

As Christopher Dunn, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union which is handling the case, puts it:

"Stops on the street can be a humiliating experience," he said. "But here it's even more than that. We're talking about people who are walking in and out of their own homes. These stops are an assault on the sanctity of one's own home."


Stop & Frisk is on trial in the New York City Council




Despite massive opposition from Mayor Bloomberg and the Police Commissioner, the New York City Council took up the issue of Stop & Frisk two weeks ago.
After more than a decade of complaints, the New York Police Department's practice of stopping and frisking people on the streets has suddenly moved to the forefront as a combustible political issue.

City Council members thundered at a hearing that the "stop and frisk" tactic is discriminatory and ineffective. Mayoral hopefuls have clamored to call for change. A politically powerful union has said it won't support a candidate who doesn't criticize stop and frisks, which officers conducted nearly 700,000 times last year.

The City Council is considering legislation dubbed the Community Safety Act which would attempt to protect people against discriminatory profiling, attempt to protect people against unlawful searches, and hold police accountable to the people they stopped.

This last week, City Council members traveled to the nether reaches of the City to hear testimony from the public regarding Stop & Frisk. at three different town halls. Here's an account of one of the meetings from the Stop & Frisk trial blog, reminding us of why Mims and his fellow protesters were willing to risk jail time to fight this.

"Person after person 15 year old to a 73 year old told about being stopped, humiliated and frisked. Others told of being brutalized. Some people in the audience were crying when a petite African-American woman spoke about being stopped as she walked into her house. She and her family members were savagely beaten with members of her family suffering a broken leg and jaw. She kept wailing to the Council members, "What are you going to do about this?" 15 year old young women told of being groped and fondled. The stories were vivid, heartbreaking but anger provoking and enraging.
Here is a sampling of what the public had to say, taken from live tweets by the New York Civil Liberties Union as the town hall meetings progressed.
NYCLU @nyclu
Bx defenders atty sharing his story of being stopped by officers for no reason BC he is a young black male

NYCLU @nyclu
Ccr staffer talks abt having an officer pull a gun on him and the helplessness of being a young black man in nyc

NYCLU @nyclu
A member of 'picture the homeless' said: I lost my job and my home because of the nypd abuses.

NYCLU @nyclu
Hs student, 15 years old: I was stopped & frisked while playing football in park & officer told us we we R young, out of control & colored.

NYCLU @nyclu
I'd like the nypd to show me id when I am randomly stopped instead of the other way around: member of vocal Ny

NYCLU @nyclu
Jumaane: any time you hear of a young person getting shot by the police you can bet your next paycheck that person was black or latino

NYCLU @nyclu
The mayor says obesity is a problem but we have to stay inside because we're treated like criminals in the streets

NYCLU @nyclu
"Parents are afraid for our children. Not because someone is going to hurt them but because we fear the police" Pastor Johnson

NYCLU @nyclu
Donavan Williams "tonight I shed my title, I shed my degree, because as a black man in NY my degrees dont matter. I still get stopped"

Three former NYPD officers also testified.  Speaking of the reality that exists within NYPD, versus the picture painted of police procedures by higher-ups, Howard Henderson said
2h NYCLU @nyclu
Howard Henderson, retired NYPD: "There is profiling and there are quotas, if you never heard it, you heard it now."

howard henderson stop & frisk
Howard Henderson, speaking truth to power

Which pretty much sums it up.


Stop & Frisk is on Trial Across the Country



Explicit Stop & Frisk policies may be confined to New York City and a few other big urban areas like Philadephia. But the stopping of young men of color on the streets for no reason, ubiquitous "driving while black" pullovers and other indignities I can only imagine are standard practice across these United States.

In Oakland, California a young man is dead as the ultimate result of a de facto Stop & Frisk policy by the Oakland Police Department. The Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition, created in part to prevent further such killings, is calling for and end to Stop & Frisk-- de facto and de jure -- as one of its demands. It has issued a statement of solidarity with Jamel Mims and his comrades.


            JUSTICE 4 ALAN BLUEFORD COALITION CALLS FOR
      DISMISSAL OF CHARGES AGAINST NYC STOP & FRISK PROTESTERS

The Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition (http://justice4alanblueford.org/)
stands in solidarity with Jamel Mins, Carl Dix, Robert Parsons, Morgan
Rhodewalt and their eight companions, standing trial in New York City
on trumped-up charges brought by the Queens County District Attorney,
Richard Brown, for peacefully protesting the unconstitutional Stop &
Frisk policies of the New York Police Department.
Alan Blueford, an 18-year old black student, was murdered as the
consequence of an illegal stop & frisk in Oakland, California on May
6th, 2012. Recognizing this, the Coalition has made the elimination of
stop & frisk -- a de facto policy of the Oakland Police Department --
one of its five demands in seeking justice for Alan Blueford.
Countless youth and men of color have been harassed and their lives
put in jeopardy by this police tactic designed to intimidate an entire
generation. The Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition salutes all those in
New York City who have taken up the battle against Stop & Frisk.  We
here in Oakland are watching as events unfold in New York City: every
march and every press conference, developments in each trial and
lawsuit, and your struggle to legislatively end Stop & Frisk by
enacting the Community Safety Act.
We call on everyone from coast to coast and in between to demand that
District Attorney Richard Brown drop all charges a against these
peaceful protesters, and we also ask everyone to sign the Stop Mass
Incarceration petition calling for dismissal of all charges at
stopmassincarceration.org/resolution.html.


Sentence First -- Verdict Afterwards.



The question is whether the American public is willing to sentence it.
Stop & Frisk is guilty. (ref.).

-------

Epilog:

Carl Dix, one of the four on trial, sent out reflections in email last night.
Here are excerpts from that message:

Carl Dix, Stop & Frisk protest

Sisters and Brothers,

Sitting in the court in Queens listening to the prosecution and the judge talk about this trial isn't about Stop-and-Frisk but about whether Jamel, Morgan, Bob and I 'broke the law,' took me back to the 1960's and the struggle to end Jim Crow segregation. The whites only facilities, Black people having to ride on the back of the bus or sit in the balcony in movie theaters and the lynch mob terror the enforced all this. Our fight to Stop "Stop-and-Frisk" stands on the shoulders of that legacy. The prosecutors are the current day version of the people who put 1960's freedom fighters in jail, and worse.

The trial is recessed till Monday, and we have a chance to make the fact that 4 people who protested that racist, immoral policy are facing time in prison a major story in NYC and beyond. On Monday, the prosecution will put on its major witness and show the video of the protest at the 103rd precinct.  On Tuesday, the defendants will testify. In strategizing over how to involve people in the trial, we should remember the impact the civil disobedience campaign to Stop "Stop-and-Frisk" had last year. Think about the youth who face harassment, disrespect and worse by police.  Those youth drew hope and inspiration from what we did.  Our protests made people who are never stopped and frisked aware of what others faced. And many of them were horrified to learn that people faced this because of the color of their skin. The authorities want to crush all this by making us pay a heavy price for standing up to Stop-and-Frisk. On the other hand, if we win this legal battle, it will give the movement to end that policy greater momentum.

Note:  
The trial continues Monday, October 29.
Queens Criminal Court
125-01 Queens Blvd Kew Garden NY 11415

Originally posted to jpmassar on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 07:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Police Accountability Group, Occupy Wall Street, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Progressive Policy Zone, Dailykos Kossacks For Action, Black Kos community, and LatinoKos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Give them an inch and eventually (12+ / 0-)

    they will take a mile

    Of course if they really did stop everyone, everywhere, people would quickly be up in arms. Instead, they search lower class people and almost always people of color in the full knowledge that nobody who's anybody gave a FF that they are doing so.

    "Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" John Lennon - Working Class Hero

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 07:23:50 AM PDT

  •  Bloomberg's anti-gun extremism run amuck. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, kyril, George3

    Brand new favorite RSS feed of Daily Kos Radio Podcasts http://kagrox.libsyn.com/rss
    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

    by We Won on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 08:08:25 AM PDT

  •  A diary about stop-and-frisk (0+ / 0-)

    that doesn't once use the word "Terry"?  Come on...do your homework.  The chances of Terry getting overturned by SCOTUS are like...zero.  Any federal judge who tries to hold stop-and-frisk unconstitutional is in for a nasty slap down from the Court of Appeals.  

    •  I don't think you know what you are talking about. (8+ / 0-)

      Of course I know what a Terry stop is.

      Stop & Frisk is not a Terry stop, it is much more intrusive and is demonstrably racially biased.

      Do you think the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights would be challenging Stop & Frisk with major lawsuits if they knew that the Terry decision would preclude them from winning?

      I was not writing a history of Stop & Frisk legislation and legal decisions. I was writing an account of what is happening now in New York.  The diary was long enough as it is without an extensive account of Terry stops and later decisions along those lines!

      You should apologize for your insulting tone, implying my stupidity.

  •  What we need is some kind of legislation to (8+ / 0-)

    protect people against this sort of outrageous behavior, maybe something like this:

    Amendment IV

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Maybe we could supplement it with something like this:
    "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
    Otherwise, I guess we could just accept it that the bill of rights and much of the rest of the Constitution has been thrown in the toilet and the citizenry of the U.S. doesn't care enough to do shit about it.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 08:22:00 AM PDT

    •  When Anton Scalia gets to define (7+ / 0-)

      "unreasonable" you know you are in trouble.

      That's the problem. Words with plain meaning ("right to peacefully assemble...") have been so twisted as to be meaningless.  

    •  Bloomberg plays to the masses... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      enhydra lutris

      gathering big kudos for same-sex marriage support in Maine, where most everyone is white - while suppressing the rights of poor and non-white citizens of NYC?

      I wrote to mainersunited.org against his involvement, due to this hypocrisy - and to date, haven't see a reply.

      Here's his message:  (I've boldly highlighted the hypocritical comments)

      Two years ago, I was proud to support the effort to pass marriage equality in the State of New York – and the bipartisan support it received resulted in one of our state’s greatest civil rights victories.

      We’re standing at the precipice of achieving a similarly historic victory in Maine by winning the freedom to marry for all couples. But with two weeks left to go before Election Day, the work is far from over.

      That’s why I’m challenging supporters of marriage everywhere to join me in supporting the work of Mainers United for Marriage.

      For the next five days, I’m offering a dollar-for-dollar match for every single dollar we can raise up to $125,000 to help Maine win the freedom to marry.

      Will you join me by contributing $3, or more, today?

      As a business leader and Mayor of New York City, I do not believe that government has any business telling one class of couples that they cannot marry. The 14th Amendment guarantees us all equal protection under the law, and that's what voting Yes on Question 1 would do: treat all citizens equally under the law, while protecting religious liberty at the same time.

      Contribute today and I will match your donation, up to $125,000.

      The next great barrier to full equality under the law is marriage equality.  There is no doubt in my mind this barrier will fall, just as so many others have. The question is not if, but when – and you can help answer by supporting this effort.

      Sincerely,

      Michael Bloomberg
      Mayor, City of New York

    •  Well said, sadly noted too late to uprate. n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      enhydra lutris
  •  It's important to get to what's really underlying (7+ / 0-)

    this, not just racism, but class war and the malignant negligence regarding the fundamental needs of lower class.  

    "Because we afford you no opportunity, we must stop and frisk you routinely."

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 08:37:31 AM PDT

  •  how fascism takes root /nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar

    yksitoista ulotteinen presidentin shakki. / tappaa kaikki natsit "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) 政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 09:52:42 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site