Court resumed this week for demonstrators on trial facing disorderly conduct and two counts of obstruction charges resulting from a stop-and-frisk protest at the 103rd Precinct in Queens last year.
Members and supporters of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, a civil rights group, strategically protested three precincts known for having a high rate of stop-and-frisk arrests in an attempt to blow the whistle on the controversial NYPD police procedure, which, by year’s end, will impact more than 700,000 people in 2012, and 85 percent of those people will be of color.
Defendants Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Robert Parsons and Morgan Rhodewalt heard testimony from Deputy Inspector Charles McEvoy, who took the stand and gave his account of what happened the day of the arrests while being led through video footage. Defense attorneys Marty Stolar, Tom Hillgardner and Meg Maurus asked that charges be dismissed, based on the fact that no one was disrupted by the protest and the defendants just intended to deliver a strong message against stop-and-frisk.
“We did nothing illegal nor did we intend to break any laws,” said Mims, an activist and city public school teacher who participated in the first two marches on precincts in Harlem and Brooklyn. “Thousands of people are being stopped on the street needlessly. We just want to point out a system that brutalizes, kills and incarcerates vast numbers of Black and Latino youth. The crime here is stop-and-frisk.”
If convicted, those on trial face up to two years in jail. The civil disobedience campaign has catalyzed citywide resistance to the policy and led to the arrest of 83 activists, including Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West. Last Father’s Day, nearly 300 civil rights groups, elected officials and labor unions were represented in a 30-block walk, with residents angry about how they are treated when they walk the streets.
Last month, New York City’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics suffered a blow when the Bronx district attorney’s office decided to no longer prosecute people who were stopped at public housing projects and arrested for trespassing unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ensure that the arrest was warranted.
The trial for defendants Gbenga Akinnagbe, Greg Allen, Luis Barrios, Marina Bennedeto, Dix and Rhodewalt for disorderly conduct at the 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn was adjourned until December.
No one from the Queens district attorney’s office or the NYPD was available for comment by the time the AmNews went to press.