Thirty-two demonstrators, including Princeton professor Cornel West, were purposefully arrested yesterday in Harlem at an Occupy Wall Street-related protest against the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the 28th Precinct at West 123rd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard and linked arms blocking the entrance. "You have to fight arbitrary police power," said West, who was also arrested this week at a protest in D.C. Watch below:
During the afternoon, West declared that protesters were prepared to go to jail over what they deemed a civil disobedience protest: "We need to bear witness to injustice. If cops need to take us to jail, take us to jail," West said. Also arrested with West were several community and religious leaders; Carl Dix, a national spokesman for the Revolutionary Communist Party; and James Vrettos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Most of those arrested were released from the 33rd Precinct later that day to cheers from the crowd assembled there.
Dix explained why he was taking part in the non-violent civil disobedience protest, and recounted the story of his first encounter with the police in an editorial for the Huffington Post yesterday: "This policy is wrong. It is illegal, racist, unconstitutional and intolerable! It is just one of the many pipelines into the wholesale mass incarceration of a generation of Black and Latino youth...Just like the Jim Crow of my youth, this "New Jim Crow" of mass incarceration and criminalization is totally unjust, immoral, and illegitimate."
The NYPD stopped-and-frisked a record 601,055 people last year (the vast majority of whom were Black or Latino), and are on pace to exceed that number this year. The march came a day after several elected officials called for a federal probe into the policy, and the same week that an eight year NYPD veteran was arrested and charged with civil rights violations in connection with a racially-charged stop-and-frisk arrest on Staten Island.
On his weekly radio program yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg vigorously defended the policy—he reasoned that we'd be left with “a society you can’t live in,” without it.
It’s used in communities where we have lots of guns and lots of murder victims. And we’ve brought crime down 35 percent in the last 10 years. We have—I don’t know—I don’t think we’re going to set a record for low murders, but we’ll have the second best year in the history of the city this year, and there’s a reason for those things, and this is one of the tactics.
People say, ‘Oh, you can do it without that’; well, you know...some people don’t want you to do anything.