In Silence, a Common Ground Against Stop-and-Frisk

Chris Bilal, flanked by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform, Lambda Legal’s Kevin Cathcart, the NAACP’s Ben Jealous, HRC’s Marty Rouse, and the Reverend Al Sharpton. (Photo by William Alatriste / New York City Council via Gay City News)

Perhaps it is silence that has lead to the widespread belief that African-Americans are dramatically more hostile to the LGBT community than whites — despite evidence, as some in the ethnic and community press have noted, of a rapid decline in African-American homophobia. (Only two percentage points separate white and black respondents who “strongly opposed” same-sex marriage in a recent Pew survey, for example.)

But now, organizers hope that silence can unite the queer community with the African-American and Latino communities as organizations that represent those groups and many others gather for the Silent March to End Stop and Frisk. On Father’s Day, this June 17, organizations from across the spectrum of people affected by police stop-and-frisk practices will join and walk silently down Fifth Avenue from 110th Street to 78th Street, near where Mayor Michael Bloomberg lives — an homage to the first silent march by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1917.

Gay City News reported on a press conference last week to announce the collaboration, starting with a memorable quip from the civil rights leader Al Sharpton on the relationship between LGBT and African-American community organizers.

“Today, we are going from dating on occasion to a marriage.”

Displaying his trademark skill at artful turns of phrase, the Reverend Al Sharpton spoke to the dramatic significance of a June 5 press conference at the Stonewall Inn that brought together leaders of dozens of local and national LGBT groups and the organizers of a June 17 Manhattan march to protest the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies that affect people of color in starkly disproportionate numbers.

This weekend the New York Times also reported on the collaboration between the African American and LGBT communities, in a front-page article that noted that the relationship “picked up” after the release of memorandums from the anti-same-sex-marriage group National Organization for Marriage showed a strategy to divide “gays and blacks.”

In an editorial for Gay City News headlined, “Why Stop and Frisk Is a Queer Issue,” editor-in-chief Paul Schindler sheds light on the plight of the transgender community, the slice of the “LGBT” acronym that’s perhaps the most vulnerable to police profiling, as we have noted.

Police too often assume that any transgender woman they see is a sex worker. Joo-Hyun Kang, the coordinator of Communities United for Police Reform, said trans women, often fearful when approached by police, are “tricked” into agreeing to a search that stems from their gender nonconformity. Things can turn ugly fast if the woman is carrying condoms.

In the Gay City News article on the march, Schindler elaborated on the difficulties transgender people, detailed in a report recently released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which found that 32 percent of those who reported violence and harassment said they had experienced police misconduct.

Some transgender NCAVP clients said they had been profiled as sex workers and falsely arrested. Other LGBT clients complaining of police misconduct said they were arrested for public shows of affection or public sex either falsely or through selective enforcement. Nearly four in ten who cited police misconduct were survivors of violence who were themselves the ones arrested.

Among all offenders cited in the NCAVP report, police officers and other law enforcement agents made up more than nine percent of the total.

The report also found that transgender people of color experienced police violence at a rate more than two times greater than the LGBT community as a whole.

El Diario/La Prensa has also reported on the allegations of police misconduct in the treatment of transgender people, in articles translated earlier in Voices of NY.

In an editorial for Amsterdam News, Jabari Asim, editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine, set out to debunk the notion of yet another group whose voice should be heard in the debate over stop-and-frisk — that of the 5,600 people whose lives Mayor Michael Bloomberg has claimed were saved by the practice.

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his supporters see it, the voices most worthy of our attention in the ongoing debate about stop-and-frisk are those of storybook New Yorkers who don’t exist. In his defense of the NYPD’s aggressive tactics, Bloomberg has repeatedly invoked the 5,600 lives he claims to have saved. Richard Cohen, writing in the Washington Post, celebrated the same mythological 5,600. They are, he claims, “alive today by the grace of God and the policing policies of the Bloomberg administration.”

“Ninety percent” of that lucky group, according to Bloomberg, would be composed of “young Black and Hispanic men.” To suggest that such imaginary voices should carry more weight than those of the 168,126 real-life Black men stopped in the city last year is to use phantom stats to express phantom logic.

Meanwhile, in articles for El Diario/La Prensa (Spanish) and Huffington Post’s Latino Voices (English), Juan Cartagena, president of the legal advocate group Latino Justice, shed light on one of the many lawsuits stemming from stop-and-frisk, this time concerning what he calls “hallway stop and frisk”: on March 28, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of 13 plaintiffs in response to tens of thousands of New Yorkers being stopped by police in privately-owned residences that participate in Operation Clean Halls, a program that grants the NYPD permission to patrol buildings, with the landlords’ permission. Click here to read the court filing from the NYCLU.

Latino Justice’s Tumblr site

Cartagena also invited readers to join the Father’s Day silent march, adding that victims of stop and frisk can share their stories at Latino Justice, as part of their “I Was Stopped” project, with responses being posted on their Tumblr site.

And the African-American news site The Root encourages readers to submit video of themselves recounting stop-and-frisk incidents.

Those stopped by police can also share their experiences via the bilingual (English- and Spanish-language) Stop and Frisk Watch app (introduced in the video below), currently only on Android, which was released by the NYCLU on June 6. The app, according to Colorlines, lets users film a stop-and-frisk incident; see alerts when someone in the area has been stopped by police; and fill out a survey to report encounters with police that they saw or personally encountered.

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