There is a large population of American citizens who call New York City their home, yet are living behind enemy lines. Despite being, in many cases contributing members of society, students and simply normal everyday people, these mostly black and brown men are stopped, searched, harassed, berated and in some cases beaten everyday by the NYPD, the most notorious police department in the United States.
It seems as if America is moving closer and closer toward becoming a police state. Some form of democracy, but a form only for a certain population of individuals, who live in certain parts of town. In the wake of the Occupy movement, which sprouted up in cities throughout the country as well as abroad, incidents involving police brutality have seen a tremendous increase. From the now infamous video of a group of college students, peacefully protesting on campus, being pepper sprayed to multiple videos showing unwarranted police beatings, the outrage most American's once had about this level of anarchy has just about disappeared.
This tragic drama could not be more evident than in New York City, where laws exist which allow the NYPD gang the ability to violate the civil and human rights of anyone with whom they see fit, whether a crime has been committed or not. Although the Stop and Frisk laws were implemented years ago, the controversy has resurfaced after an audio recording surfaced, displaying the disrespectful, intimidating, and overall harsh manner in which this law is being practiced.
The audio recording was taken by 17-year-old Alvin, the victim of NYPD harassment, posing as legislation. In Alvin's audio recording you can hear him being shoved around, cursed at and threatened by the officers for no apparent reason. Alvin explains to the officer that he had just been stopped a few moments ago, and although the officers admit they are aware, they continue their harassment of the teen, who throughout the encounter asked repeatedly what it was that he had done wrong. That question was never answered.
Alvin's recording prompted a documentary filmmaker to create a short film showing the truth about the Stop and Frisk law. In it you see interviews from current as well as retired police officers who admit the law is not only unconstitutional, but that its implementation is even a further violation of individual rights. Additionally, the officers claim they are being forced by superiors to conduct these excessive, military style searches and threatened with disciplinary action if the number of stops (referred to by cops as 250's) they conduct are too low. One officer recounted a briefing conducted by his superior in which the officers in the meeting were told "we're gonna go out there and we're gonna violate some rights."
Statistically the stop and frisk laws haven't done much to combat gun violence or the sale and use of illicit drugs in the city. The vast majority of individuals who are harassed under this law are innocent of any wrongdoing, yet Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly insist that the laws are working and continue to be necessary. Why would the Mayor and Police Commissioner want to continue using an unfair practice such as Stop and Frisk, when it clearly has not accomplished its desired task? Unless the desired task is less about protecting and serving and more about patrolling and controlling.
The Stop and Frisk law has been attacked by a number of civil rights organizations for disproportionately targeting African-Americans and latinos. Last year, out of the almost 700,000 people stopped by the NYPD, 87 percent were either black or latino. That same year there were more young black men stopped by the NYPD then the number of young black men who actually live in the city, which means that many of these victims are stopped and harassed more than once, as was the situation for Alvin.
In a city like New York, where millions and millions of dollars are pumped into the city daily, where celebrities often walk the streets freely and where optimistic immigrants from all over the world have historically flocked to, seeking a better life, how can New Yorkers remain silent and apathetic, when such tragic injustices are taking place in front of their eyes. Why haven't one of the dozens of successful New York rappers, who themselves are often victims of illegal or unwarranted searches, stepped up to initiated some sort of action to pressure the city into changing this law? If every victim of the Stop and Frisk law stopped spending their money in New York city for a week, the city itself would quickly feel a little thorn in it's side. If every victim and every supporter who believes this law is wrong joined in, the city of New York would almost undoubtedly reassess these discriminatory practices.
If you lived in a place where you were subject to unwarranted violence and harassment, a place where you were treated as less than human and had your life, as well as your freedom threatened on a regular basis, you might be living in some third world dictatorship. You might also be living in Harlem. In either case it would behoove you to consider removing yourself from that environment.
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