Last week, civil rights leaders gathered for a teleconference to announce an upcoming march aimed to call attention to the racially charged and controversial practice of the “Stop-And-Frisk” law, a New York measure supposedly crafted to curtail crime. Critics of Stop and Frisk have deduced that the law is nothing more than a mask for racial profiling and want it done away with.
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Rev. Al Sharpton (pictured) of the National Action Network and others are rallying together to protest the practice with the “End Stop And Frisk Silent March Against Racial Profiling” in New York June 17. Rev. Sharpton graciously granted NewsOne an interview to discuss the march.
NewsOne: The “End Stop And Frisk Silent March” is taking place on Father’s Day. Could you tell us a bit about what inspired the march and what your group hopes to achieve?
Rev. Al Sharpton: When you look at the data, 41 percent of the people stopped and frisked in New York are young Black and Latino men 18 through 25 [years of age], yet they’re only 4.1 percent of the population. Ninety percent of the people stopped are Black and Latino, when collectively, they are only 60 percent of the population. Now when you see this disproportionate amount of us stopped and frisked, if you look at the amount of guns confiscated in 2003 and then look at the amount in 2011 and there’s not much difference, the net result is that the harassment and profiling of Black and Latinos doesn’t lead to a reduction of gun confiscation.
We’re all committed in the fight to stop crime, but we’re not for a policy that says to harass and profile people. We must end the profiling and end the program. It is against civil rights. We cannot have [some] children born in this city seen as citizens, and the others born as suspects based on race. The silent march is set to underscore that point to the Mayor [Michael Bloomberg] and the NYPD.
NewsOne: NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly blasted his own police force over the aggressive arrest tactic. If the top brass is saying it’s excessive, what do you make of police officers who ignored those words?
Rev. Sharpton: You have to wonder if the instruction to continue with the harassment is coming from their local command. Or they know the commissioner made the warning but isn’t going to do anything about it [because it's] an issue he’s not serious about. But what we do know is that it hasn’t stopped. We don’t know if the commissioner issued his warning with a wink, and the only question we can raise is why. This is why we’re doing the march and demanding to meet with Mayor Bloomberg.
NewOne: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a proposal on June 4 to decriminalize low-level marijuana charges in New York. Do you have the governor’s ear regarding the march?
Rev. Sharpton: I spoke with the governor and I agree with this approach. I said publicly that it’s a step in the right direction and we will continue to work with his office as we fight to reform and end the abuses. We also had conversations with the Justice Department. We intend to bring this to the attention of Attorney General [Eric] Holder as well. And again, we’re not saying that the crime problem should not be addressed. We just don’t think “stop-and-frisk” is addressing it properly.
NewsOne: Why do you think Mayor Bloomberg is so resistant to hear opposing views to “Stop-And-Frisk” laws?
Rev. Sharpton: I do not understand his inflexibility on this issue. We’re seeking a meeting with him, which I understand we will have. We’ve worked together on education programs and other measures, and he also came out against “Stand Your Ground” laws.
But you can’t support opposing “Stand Your Ground” and then embrace its first cousin “Stop-And-Frisk” because both of them are based on racial profiling.
Rev. Al Sharpton — along with the NAACP, SEIU1999, and other affiliated organizations — will take to the streets this upcoming Sunday. The march will take place at 3 p.m. ET and NewsOne will be on the ground providing live coverage of the event. For more information about the march, go here.