Audrey Black, decked out in a derby with his cane marking each step, was among the marchers Sunday afternoon on Father’s Day who moved slowly and silently down Fifth Avenue to 79th Street.
The march of thousands had as its destination one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s residence. The message to him, though unspoken, was written on a host of placards, posters and flyers: “Stop stop-and-frisk and end racial profiling.”
Black, often strolling alone, agreed that his resemblance to W.E.B. Du Bois was deliberate, in memory of the great scholar and NAACP co-founder who led a similar march on Fifth Avenue against lynching on July 28, 1917.
Muffled drums were the only sound of that historic march, and the only sound from Sunday’s march came at the end, when speaker after speaker announced their fight against a policy that has ensnared so many innocent young people over the years.
“Silence is consent, we’ve got to fight back. We’ve got to raise our voices against the new Jim Crow!” one speaker bellowed.
Another speaker stressed, “Black and Latino boys and men between the ages of 14 and 24 represent only 5 percent of the population in New York City but total more than 42 percent of those stopped and frisked by the NYPD.” Last year that total number was nearly 700,000, with only a minuscule number of arrests and convictions.
One protester found it remarkable that the often-voluble Rev. Al Sharpton, whose organization the National Action Network, along with the NAACP and the SEIU, was mainly responsible for coordinating the march, could walk more than 30 blocks and not say a mumbling word.
But he did, saving his comments for several reporters after the march was over. Much of what he said was what he had told a reporter at NewsOne.com earlier. “We’re all committed in the fight to stop crime, but we’re not for a policy that says to harass and profile people,” Sharpton said. “We must end the profiling and end the program. It is against civil rights. We cannot have [some] children born in this city seen as citizens and others born as suspects based on race. The silent march is set to underscore that point to the mayor and the NYPD.”
If Bloomberg was home–and many doubted that he was–he saw the massive gathering outside or heard the noise when the silence was broken.
“I cannot in good conscience walk away from work that I know will save the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, and I will not,” Bloomberg said at a press conference on the eve of the march. “Now, I understand why some people want us to stop making stops. Innocent people who are stopped can be treated disrespectfully. That is not acceptable.
“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you deserve nothing but respect and courtesy from the police. Police Commissioner [Ray] Kelly and I both believe we can do a better job in this area, and he’s instituted a number of reforms to do that.”
For most of the march, Sharpton could be found between Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Others in this segment included two NAACP stalwarts, Hazel Dukes and Benjamin Jealous. At times, Jealous hoisted his daughter Morgan on his shoulders.
“In this city of so much hustle and bustle and clamor,” Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, told reporters, “sometimes the loudest thing you can do is to move together in silence.”