Bronx Residents Pack the Courthouse for Stop-and-Frisk Trial
Today, as the first week of trial in the federal lawsuit – Floyd v. City of New York – draws to a close, more than 100 Bronx residents and representatives from several Bronx organizations packed the court and rallied to show support for the Floyd plaintiffs and to denounce discriminatory police practices. The effort – organized by The Bronx Defenders, Picture the Homeless, Justice Committee, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, and New York Harm Reduction Educators – was one of several events held outside of the courthouse by affected communities and supporters of the lawsuit this week.
“Bronx residents are standing up, asserting their rights, and demanding accountability from the NYPD,” said Kate Rubin, Director of Policy at The Bronx Defenders. “We’re here today to support the plaintiffs in Floyd, and to declare that Bronx residents refuse to be targeted by the police for unlawful stops, false arrests, and overuse of force.”
The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Bronx resident David Floyd, who testified this week about his experience being stopped-and-frisked near his home in the borough. The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, claims that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has a pattern and practice of making unconstitutional stops based on race.
“It is a shame that we are still having this debate, and that so many of our young people of color are still being criminalized and humiliated by this stop and frisk policy,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “How many more thousands of innocent New Yorkers need to be stopped before justice is done? If the City wants to combat violence in our communities, then we have to look at poverty, unemployment, failed education policies, and a lack of recreational programs for our youth.”
Bronx residents have been particularly faced with negative impacts of stop-and-frisk. In 2011, 98.5% of people stopped in the 46th and 42nd precincts in the Bronx were Black or Latino – giving these two precincts the highest percentages in the city for Black and Latino New Yorkers stopped out of the total number of stops. Bronx precincts have the highest levels of use-of-force in stops, making Bronx residents more likely the subject of police violence.
“The Floyd v. City of NY case is important to me personally because I have been a victim of stop-and-frisk, police brutality and overuse of force,” said Ade’ Singleton, a member of Picture the Homeless. “It is also important for all of the seemingly voiceless and silent victims and sufferers of police misconduct and abuse of power.”
The Bronx’s 40th Precinct had the fourth highest number of total stops in 2011. Bronx residents of the 46th and 44th precincts were the most likely to be frisked, as they had the highest number of frisks as a percentage of total stops.
“The first time I was stopped I was 11-years-old,” said Riko Guzman, an Organizer with the Justice Committee based in the Bronx. “Last year I was stopped about twenty times. “As a South Bronx resident, I know first hand the damage stop and frisk causes to individuals and communities. As an organizer with the Justice Committee, I know we must fight stop and frisk and other forms of discriminatory policing on all fronts, in the courts, at City Hall and in the streets. Floyd v the City of New York is major step in our on-going struggle to put an end to the violence of the NYPD.”
The use of stop-and-frisk has increased by more than 600% during the Bloomberg administration. Over 5 million stops have been made throughout the Bloomberg administration. Nearly nine in ten of those stopped were neither arrested nor issued a summons, and nearly 90% of those stopped were Black or Latina/o.
“Stop and frisk impacts young people from the Bronx by setting them up for failure,” said Marione Clark, a 15-year old member of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. “It's like metal detectors on the street. When a young person is harassed by police because of how they look, it makes them think this is how it's always going to be.”
Despite the 600% increase in stop-and-frisk between 2002 and 2011, the number of gun violence victims in New York City has remained at nearly the same level of 1,800. The out-of-control use of stop-and-frisk under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly has alienated communities, damaging their relationship with the NYPD and thus making communities less safe.
“The Floyd case is important to me because the NYPD constantly subjects me to stop-and-frisks in my own neighborhood,” said Felipe Martinez, a member of Picture the Homeless. “I'm tired of being harassed by the same people who are supposed to have my back. My son is 6 years old, and I don't want him to be subjected to the same type of police harassment that I've had to face in the past.”
The beginning of today’s trial follows years of activism against discriminatory policing and recently increasing opposition to stop-and-frisk across demographic groups. A majority of New Yorkers is opposed to the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk policy and want change in a new mayoral administration.
“Too many people were stopped last year for nothing; too many people asked to show ID, too many people told to move, too many people harassed,” said Prakriti Hassan, a community researcher with the Morris Justice Project, which surveyed hundreds of South Bronx residents in 2012. “This needs to stop. Everyone in the Bronx deserves better.”
“Stop and Frisk is a waste of police resources and results in illegal and unjustified harassment and arrests,” said Marilyn Scales, a Peer Educator at New York Harm Redution Educators. “The case of Floyd vs. The City of NY gives me hope that the NYPD will stop illegally arresting our participants for carrying syringes. We have worked tirelessly to educate our participants about the importance of syringe exchange and when the NYPD violates our rights they put the public safety at risk.”