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Citizens push for passage of Community Safety Act to stop stop and frisk

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/11/2013, 4:21 p.m.
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Hundreds of protesters gathered at City Hall last Thursday to support the City Council's Community Safety Act, which would modify the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk practice. The rally, put together by Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), pushed for the passage of the legislative package.

A diverse group of people came out to the rally, including demonstrators from immigrant, Muslim, homeless and LGBT communities. While stop-and-frisk has been labeled a problem affecting Black and Latinos in the city, other groups said they too have been victims of the practice.

"New Yorkers are tried of waiting for justice and reforms," said Yul-san Liem, spokesperson for CPR. "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."

The rally came on the day the Bronx district attorney's office announced it would no longer prosecute people arrested for trespassing on public housing property, unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ascertain whether the arrest was warranted. The move is considered a victory in the fight to eradicate stop-and-frisk.

Several elected officials came out to the rally, including City Council members Jumaane Williams and Leticia James and Comptroller John Liu. Williams sponsored the act that would create a ban on profiling by the NYPD based on age, sex, gender identity and expression, require officers to identify themselves and explain their actions and establish an inspector general for the NYPD to provide independent oversight.

"I am proud to be a prime sponsor of this legislation and even prouder to join my colleagues today in calling for greater NYPD accountability and the passage of these bills," he said.

Other notable civil rights figures spoke at the rally, including Tamika Mallory, national executive director of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network. Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, also spoke and said stop-and-frisk makes Black and Latino youth fear police and criminals.

"Stop-and-frisk is the biggest racial profiling program in the country," he said. "Ending it here is important to any racial profiling in this country. When we do end it here, the battle of racial profiling will become much easier. Stop-and-frisk is not about solving crime. It's about indulging in distracting the police in a misguided public relations effort where we seem to make one group of people better by publicly humiliating the children of another group."

Mallory said that activists have done what is necessary by making their voices heard, and that now it's up to city government to do what is right.

"It is now time that the elected officials in this city--the ones who look like us who come to us for our vote--that they go back to their offices and do what is necessary to protect our communities. What we must do is continue to raise our voices. It is our job to protect our children. Our young people are broken. They are killing one another, and there is no protection for them," she said.

Justin Rosado of Brooklyn, a student member of Make the Road New York, said that stop-and-frisk angers him and that police intimidating innocent Black and Latino youth is a problem.

Said Rosado, "I am a kid who follows the rules, goes to school every day, and I spend my free time to make my community a better place. But none of that matters, because I am young and Latino."

A hearing on the Community Safety Act is scheduled for Oct. 10 at City Hall, followed by field hearings on stop-and-frisk practices in Brooklyn and Queens later in the month.