Monday, March 05, 2012

It's 10 PM...How Many Times Have Your Kids Been Stopped and Frisked Today?

Working-class communities, especially communities of color, are under siege in New York City. The good-guys: hard working people just trying to survive. The bad-guys: The New York Police Department. The insulting and humiliating harassment known as stop and frisk, overwhelming a tool of racial profiling, up. Police assassinations of innocent people, up. Police spying and harassment of apolitical Muslim community organizations and activities, up.

Above is one of a series of posters my neighborhood Occupy group has developed to start a dialogue to build support for action on May Day. This one calls out the policy of stop and frisk: "It's 10:00 P.M.... How many times have your kids been stopped and frisked today? Take action on May Day!"

Middle-class white people grow up being taught that the police are their friends: Officers Friendly, helping to maintain the peace, keep people safe, and preserve order. This is an illusion made plausible because the police, especially in New York City, really is an institution built on a foundation of racism. It looks very very different to people outside that white middle-class bubble. Regardless of the number of African-Americans or latinos recruited to the force, it's evident that the nature of the NYPD is utterly bound not to protect all citizens equally but to protect the privileges of wealth and power.

Check out this absolutely incredible statistic from the New York Civil Liberties Union: "In 2011, 684,330 New Yorkers were stopped by the police.
603,268 were totally innocent (88 percent)
402,308 were black (59 percent)
176,165 were Latino (26 percent)
62,033 were white (9 percent)"

And further: "In 2006, 21.5 blacks were stopped for each arrest of a black person as opposed to only 18.2 whites stopped for each white arrest....Cops found guns, drugs, or stolen property on whites about twice as often as they did on black suspect...Police used force – i.e. handcuffing, frisking, drawing weapon, restraining – about 50 percent more often on blacks than on whites in 2006."

"Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports." And yet, this is an actual premeditated NYPD policy, claiming "Stops save lives."

Apparently the life of Ramarley Graham didn't count. 18 years old, Graham was chased by the police after allegedly being observed buying a little weed. He ran into his house; the cops broke down the doors after him, and then assassinated him in his bathroom in cold blood. He was unarmed. The cops then aggressively questioned the dead young man's grandmother for seven hours. Graham's brother later said, "They think the badge they carry on their chest is a license to kill people." With absolute legal impunity, one might add. Ramarly Graham joins the ranks of police murder victims like Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo.

Recently exposed was a massive program of spying on New York's Muslim community by the NYPD. Islamic Centers, mosques, community organizations, student groups, social clubs, student group hiking trips, social and electronic media groups: all have been subjected to heavy infiltration and surveillance. Apparently the NYPD views all Muslim New Yorkers as potential terrorists.

In diverse communities like my Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the cops do not feel like friends. These activities are not suppressing crime, they're treating all citizens like criminals. They suggest that poor people and immigrant people are not welcome to participate in civil discourse, not entitled to live safely free of illegal harassment.

Michael Bloomberg's New York City is a place where wealthy real estate interests are given huge privileges over regular people. If they want your home for one of their projects they know they can just kick you out with no recourse. The connections between such class privilege and the establishment of corrupt banks and financial institutions that made Occupy Wall Street resonate so clearly on the national consciousness is crystal clear. But it's also clear that this is not just about banking and finance, it's about what being beholden to those interests does to a city, does to all of the people who live in it.

So by calling out the racist harassment inflicted on the city's population by its police force, social justice activists now including Occupy Sunset Park and other Occupy assemblies, join voices with suffering communities and engage the political struggle for creating a city — a world? — where we, together, reject the legacies of false democracy and violent repression.

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