The Stop Mass Incarceration Network, an organization led by revolutionary communist Carl Dix, plans to protest against the New York City Police Department over its “Stop-and-Frisk” policy, citing that it unfairly targets blacks and Latinos. The protest will take place on Oct. 21 through a non-violent, civil disobedience demonstration outside of a Harlem police precinct. The stop-and-frisk demonstration will serve as a lead-in to the Oct. 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality.
The organization’s goal is to convince the police department to eliminate the stop-and-frisk policy. Dix, the demonstration’s organizer and national spokesman for the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, said he doesn’t think the department’s policy effectively reduces crime. Dix argues that the policy demonstrates racial profiling and violates the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unwarranted search and seizure.
“They stop mostly blacks and Latinos and they will tell you, ‘We’re not practicing racial profiling, we’re holding down crime,’” Dix said. “But if you only stop overwhelmingly blacks and Latinos, you are practicing racial profiling.”
Dix said through dialogue with Princeton University professor, Cornel West, he came up with the idea to protest the department’s policy through a non-violent, civil disobedient demonstration. According to Dix, West is expected to join him and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network on Oct. 21.
Dix said the main objective of the organization’s demonstration is to build mass resistance. Through his staunch alliance with the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, a political party geared toward changing injustices through revolution, Dix believes the Stop Mass Incarceration Network will be able to make a statement to the police department.
On Oct. 6, Dix challenged police commissioner Raymond Kelly to defend the stop-and-frisk policy in Harlem, where Dix and Stop Mass Incarceration volunteers courted neighborhood concerns with the policy. However, Kelly did not show.
The stop-and-frisk policy is a method the police department enforces in an effort to reduce crime in the city. Under the policy, officers may stop individuals who are suspected of criminal activity without clear cause. Once stopped, officers may ask for identification and conduct “pat downs” or “frisks” in which they search for illegal drugs or weapons. Although there is no legal requirement to do so, officers, by practice, record stop-and-frisk encounters. Such information includes reason for stopping the individual and his or her ethnicity. According to city data, stop and frisks, also known as “UF-250,” have been recorded as early as 1987.
State Senator Bill Perkins said his office has received complaints regarding the stop-and-frisk policy.
He said the stop-and-frisk policy is a big problem in his district, which encompasses Morningside Heights, Central Harlem, Upper Westside and Washington Heights.
“It is not good policing,” Perkins said. “This is not an example of the taxpayers money being put to good use.”
The senator said that the policy fails to reduce crime and aggravates the relationship between the precinct and the community because it forms a negative perception of the police department.
Last year, 601,055 New Yorkers were stopped by police, according to data provided by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Of that number, 85 percent were black or Latino. According to that same data, the percentage of Blacks and Latinos who were stopped and frisked has averaged more than 80 percent within the past six years, consecutively. The organization also reports that as of June 2011, 362,150 New Yorkers have been stopped and frisked–84 percent of whom were also black or Latino. Of those stopped, 9 percent were white.
New York Civil Liberties Union’s reports dating back to 2004 also reveal that 88 percent of all New Yorkers stopped and frisked were innocent of any criminal activity. After a series of phone calls and emails, the NYPD’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information failed to corroborate that data.
John Benjamin, a paralegal at Figeroux & Associates, said that the stop-and-frisk policy could reduce crime if it is carried out effectively. He said his firm handles numerous cases involving the stop-and-frisk policy.
Benjamin said officers usually target someone in areas with a high crime rate. If someone in a crime impacted zone appears to be sporting a bulged pocket, for example, officers may stop the person if there is reason to believe the pocket contains illegal merchandise, according to Benjamin.
A recent case, he said, involved a man who was wrongly arrested in his apartment building over a drug bust, and later released. However, the man spent 24 hours in jail. According to Benjamin, in a case where a suspect is detained and later dismissed, the person could bring a successful case against the police department.
In September, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan allowed a class-action lawsuit against the NYPD to proceed, after ruling that the plaintiffs had enough evidence to go to trial. The lawsuit accuses the police department of discriminating against Blacks and Latinos, and is seeking to hold the city and the police department liable for any failures to carry out the stop and frisks in an unbiased manner, according to a previous report from The Associated Press. According to a representative of Scheindlin’s chambers, the case is still pending.
The Stop Mass Incarceration demonstration is expected to summon an estimated 100 New Yorkers. It will take place outside of the 28th precinct in Central Harlem. According to a Stop Mass Incarceration representative, the organization has been in talks with Occupy Wall Street and Occupy The Hood, two groups akin to its political methodology, and hopes to have the organizations join them in protest.