Huge Multiracial Father's Day March Tells Bloomberg and NYPD, 'No More Stop-and-Frisk!'
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A Father’s Day crowd that some estimated to be as large as 50,000 marched in silent protest on Sunday afternoon in NYC, letting Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly know, in no uncertain terms, that they've had enough of the NYPD's policy of stop-and-frisk, a racial profiling tactic that has resulted in the illegal arrests of tens of thousands of young black and Latino men.
While the movement to end stop-and-frisk has been growing, many were amazed at the size of the crowd Sunday. The march included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the 1199 Service Employees International Union, and the National Action Network, as well as community organizing from groups like VOCAL-NY, the grassroots stop-and-frisk coalition and LGBT-rights groups. Organizer Leslie Cagan told AlterNet that more than 300 groups endorsed the march. The outpouring of solidarity, she said, shows that, “The people are ready, and the time has come.”
The march, led by luminaries like Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, and Al Sharpton, included families of all races and stretched from East Harlem, the sixth highest neighborhood for stop-and-frisk, all the way down 5th Avenue to East 79th St., close to Mayor Bloomberg's townhouse. At the end of the march a rowdy group gathered near the Bloomberg residence and some scuffles erupted between protesters and police. The NYPD made a handful of arrests.
Stop-and-frisk most often targets young men, and the Father’s Day march was full of dads who wanted to protect their children from the degradation of a suspicionless stop.
New Yorker Derek Perkinson told AlterNet he marched with his young children to help them build an understanding of social justice. “I want them to know what’s going on, to know the truth despite the propaganda we see on TV,” said Perkinson, who said he knows firsthand what a stop-and-frisk feels like. “I’ve been stopped and frisked many a time,” he said, “and it feels like a violation, it feels embarrassing. They still treat you like a criminal, even after they find nothing on you.”
“My kids are black,” Perkinson added, “So they probably will get stopped and frisked one day, but maybe we can do something positive before that happens.”
Stop-and-frisk has risen 600 percent since Bloomberg took office and the NYPD is on track to stop 800,000 people this year. Media attention surrounding the stunning increase of stop-and-frisk and overwhelming data that the tactic does not effectively meet its goal of uncovering guns, has pushed public opinion toward reform.
President and CEO of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, explained to AlterNet that Sunday’s march is rooted in the long, historic struggle for racial justice. “In 1917 we called for a national, silent march down 5th Avenue to call for a national movement to end lynchmob violence. In 2012 we called for the silent march down 5th Avenue to call for a national movement to end racial profiling. Last time we had to start in the South; this time we had to start right here in the city.”
Jealous explained that New York’s massive Father’s Day march is of national importance. “The Trayvon Martin case, the Ramarley Graham case, are all very much of one piece, where our young men and boys simply are vulnerable,” Jealous said. “And so while we have to end stand-your-ground [laws], if we’re really going to stop the Trayvon Martins, the Ramarley Grahams, the Rodney Kings of the world from happening, we have to end racial profiling. This movement won’t end until stop-and-frisk is over,” said Jealous.
Jealous was not the only one to mention Graham, an 18-year-old the NYPD shot and killed in the bathroom of his home, just feet away from his grandmother and 4-year-old brother. A large contingent of supporters marched alongside the Graham family. Ramarley Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, told AlterNet that her son would still be here if it weren’t for racist policing. “Ramarley was a young, black man, and racial profiling and stop-and-frisk is a part of his death. It caused him to die,” Malcolm said. She said that while it is hard for her family to spend their first Father’s Day without Graham, she felt good to be a part of a larger movement. “It’s Father’s Day and Ramarley’s not here with his father. It shouldn’t have happened. it didn’t need to be, but it is. And that’s why we’re here. We're not asking for justice, we’re demanding it,” Malcolm said.
Malcolm is determined to prevent other families from experiencing her heartbreak. “This doesn’t just affect Ramarley. It affects all young black and Hispanic men. Ramarley’s gone, and I’m fighting for the others who are left here,” she told AlterNet. “This march goes to show that we can be united as one people to make changes, because the law has to change.”
Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., whose 68-year-old father was killed by White Plains police in November, said he marched to show support for the Grahams. His father, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. was a retired corrections officer and former Marine who had accidentally triggered his medical alert device. The police refused to leave his home after he told them he did not intend to call them.
“They took the door off the hinges, they fired a Taser at my father, shot him twice with a beanbag shot gun, and then fired a fatal shot in his chest and killed him,” Chamberlain, Jr. told AlterNet. “Today is the first Father's Day that my dad is not here, so it’s very hard for me, but I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than to show honor to him. if I can stay focused, I won’t feel so sad,” said Chamberlain, a father himself. “Ending stop-and-frisk is the jumping-off point. You have to start somewhere, and it’s evident stop-and-frisk is racial profiling.”
Grassroots stop stop-and-frisk organizer Joe LaSalle told AlterNet that he is thrilled to spend Father’s Day with a different family, one united to end racism in the NYPD.
“I’m happy to be here with so many people that I don’t know, together as a family, on behalf of Ramarley Graham and Kenneth Chamberlain and other brothers and sisters killed by the NYPD,” LaSalle told AlterNet. “We’re tired of our kids being murdered by the NYPD, we’re tired of being stopped and frisked, and we want change to happen.”
LaSalle says he has been stopped hundreds of times. A father himself, his mission this Father’s Day was personal. “My 15-year-old son was stopped and frisked, and the police roughed him up a little bit, called him a 'mutt,' which, for Puerto Rican means a mixed breed, an animal. It was very humiliating. The funny thing is he wanted to become a police officer, and now, forget about it.”
Pictures by Sarah Seltzer: