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Harlem activist Jazz Hayden goes back to court Sept 13

CRAIG D. FRAZIER Special to the AmNews | 9/21/2012, 12:44 p.m.

After more than six months of court continuances in this case, the district attorney will decide whether to drop the charges against Jazz Hayden or convene a grand jury hearing. Hayden, a longtime Harlem activist, faces two felony weapons charges that could result in a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

Meanwhile, an online petition with more than 2,000 names, as well as a letter writing campaign to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., is asking for the charges to be dropped. Supporters say that these charges represent nothing less than police backlash in response to Hayden's fight against stop-and-frisk.

For the past four years, Hayden has been a core member of All Things Harlem, a network of grassroots new media companies that implemented "Copwatch." He and his team patrol the Harlem area and videotape police as they stop and frisk people.

Hayden says this is the latest example of out-of-control stop-and-frisk tactics by the NYPD. He also alleges that he was arrested in retaliation for posting a video of an incident where police engaged in a stop-and-frisk of two young Black men in July of last year.

The same officers pulled him over on Dec. 2, 2011, searched his car and charged him with possession of a dangerous weapon, a felony. "I shouldn't have to worry about public servants that my tax dollars pay for," Hayden declared. "I should be able to walk the streets of my community and feel secure. I shouldn't have to fear the police."

Hayden's lawyer, Sarah Kunstler, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, maintains, "There was no probable cause for the search and this case should be dropped."