Marchers Unite to ‘Stop the Cops’

A young man displays sweatshirt with names of victims of the NYPD. (Photo by Humberto Arellano/El Diario-La Prensa)

Signs, banners and chants echoed the sentiments of the hundreds who turned out on a rainy February 23 to continue the ongoing battle against police practices. Protesters marched from 138th Street and Third Avenue in Mott Haven in the Bronx, across the Harlem River to 125th Street, chanting slogans like, “NYPD. KKK. How many kids have you killed today?”

The Brooklyn Ink and El Diario-La Prensa reported on the “Stop the Cops” demonstration, which saw African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims and the LGBT community turning out to protest stop-and-frisk and racial profiling. The February 23 coalition, part of the civil rights coalition A.N.S.W.E.R., organized the march, which fell on the one-year anniversary of the death of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed teen shot by the NYPD.

Mohammed AlShaaban reported on the protest for Brooklyn Ink and put a story to some of the faces of those present, including one woman who said she had a miscarriage after a hostile encounter with police.

African-American Muslim Latoya Dixon recounted her hostile encounter with the NYPD. (Photo by Mohamed Al-Shaaban/Brooklyn Ink)

On February 10th, Latoya Dixon, a 29-year-old, African American Muslim woman, was on her way to pick up her husband from work. When she got out of her car, she was stopped by a police officer who said she made a right on a red turn somewhere along her route.  As she questioned the accusation, she claimed that she was pinned down, slammed, and arrested. She said she ended up having a miscarriage and was subsequently hospitalized.

“They choked me, they put me on the floor, took off my jacket, and removed my Hijab (headscarf). I begged them, I told them I am Muslim, all I could do is cry,” said a tearful Dixon. “I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to any sister or any Muslim woman.”

Another protester showed up to fight for “people who look like” him.

“I am here fighting for my rights and for the rights of people who look like me,” said 24-year-old Emanuel Dilla, an African American protester. “I have friends who have been abused and beaten up by the police, they think just because they have a gun and a badge, they can do whatever they want.”

Recently-released data by the NYPD once again showed that African Americans and Hispanics endure the brunt of the “stop-and-frisk” policy.

Earlier this month the NYPD released the Stop-and-Frisk statistics report for the year 2011, which underscored a broad public controversy about the NYPD’s  “stop-and-frisk” policy and charges of racial profiling. The data showed that African American and Hispanic New Yorkers accounted for the majority of the nearly 700,000 stops for that year, 52.9 and 33.7 percent respectively.

The “Stop the Cops” march will continue in April in Washington D.C. The Saturday rally came to a cautious end as organizers called for protesters to be careful, telling them as they were leaving, “Please go home in groups, do not stay alone until it’s safe, there is no knowing what they might do to you.”

Hundreds protested in the “Stop the Cops” demonstration against NYPD practices. (Photo by Humberto Arellano/El Diario-La Prensa)

Reporter Juan Matossian of El Diario-La Prensa added LGBT and Latino perspectives to the coverage of the march, in an article translated below by Emily Leavitt.

Accompanied by her partner, Puerto Rican Linda Conde, 46, joined some 300 Bronx residents to demand a halt to police brutality and harassment against the LGBT community.

Holding a sign that called for respect for transsexual women, Conde pumped her fist in the air as raindrops pelted down, and urged the NYPD to put a stop to sexist behavior and harassment.

“The NYPD is the most dangerous gang we should fear,” asserted Conde. “In the South Bronx, we’re sick and tired of inhumane police officers with no sense of justice.”

Organized by around 20 groups and leaders, the march began with a moment of silence in honor of victims who died at the hands of police, among them Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Reynaldo Cuevas and Amadou Diallo.

“The whole community is coming out today to speak out for all those destroyed families,” affirmed Rev. Claudia de la Cruz who is also an activist. “Our neighborhoods have suffered too much already and we demand an immediate end to police brutality.”

The protest, which started a few steps from the 40th Precinct, aimed to put the issue of police hostility towards the Muslim community out in the open.

“Minorities have been persecuted the most by the police, who justify their unconstitutional behavior with the terrible events of September 11,” said an activist of Cop Watch-Harlem. “It’s disgraceful how the NYPD criminalizes innocent families.”

Shouting the slogan, “We need jobs, not jails,” the protesters cried for an end to the controversial police tactic known as “stop-and-frisk.”

“In recent years, Latinos and African-Americans have been arrested and frisked based on a mere hunch. In reality, it’s an act of racial profiling that our system tolerates and encourages,” said Freddie Ríos, who came to the demonstration to demand justice for Reynaldo Cuevas, a young Dominican man fatally shot by a police officer.

To the beat of hip-hop, artists from the group “Stop Stop-and-Frisk” rapped in support of ending the police tactic. Later on, the demonstrators marched toward Harlem.

According to police statistics, in 2011, the area with the fourth highest rate of “stop-and-frisk” was the 40th Precinct, which makes up the neighborhoods of Mott Haven and Melrose. Around 17,690 people were detained and 98.5 percent were either African American or Hispanic.

According to activists, cases of “stop-and-frisk” happened a number of times in the vicinity of Taylor Avenue. Anthony Figueroa, a 31-year-old Dominican man, said he was one of the victims.

“I was smoking on a street corner and that was enough reason for the police to search me,” he said. “I came to the protest because I believe the community should unite to stop this racist policy. We should put pressure on authorities and say in one voice that it’s enough already.”

While the NYPD defends stop-and-frisk as an effective way to reduce crime, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) describes it as racist. According to NYCLU data, during the first months of 2012, the police stopped and frisked 443,422 individuals, 32 percent of them Latino.

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