Saturday, January 07, 2012

NYPD Arrests for Feet on a Seat

In my most recent column in Black Agenda Report, I wrote about the New York City police department’s use of “stop and frisk” to harass black and latino New Yorkers. Approximately 700,000 people,  few of them white, will be stopped and searched by the police this year, and for no lawful reason. I was going to say no good reason, but as my colleague Glen Ford points out, the reason is good in Mayor Bloomberg’s eyes.  Black people will get out of the city altogether if they are harassed enough.

In today’s New York Times, I read that 1,600 people were  actually arrested last year for putting their feet on a subway seat. They are arrested, not just summonsed, and they spend hours or perhaps days in jail. One man, Abdi Omar, was sent for psychiatric evaluation when he refused to be finger printed without proof of the warrant that police claimed he had.  As I read this story I wondered if I was living in 21st century New York or Mississippi fifty years ago.

As I pointed out in my column on stop and frisk policies, the only solution to this outrage is a political change. None of the candidates for mayor should get black votes without a promise to end police state tactics. It will be a very difficult fight, but this is a bright line issue, and no amount of pleading for democratic party unity or putting a black person in office should keep this issue off the table. No justice, no votes!