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LGBT Groups Join Civil Rights Coalition Against Stop and Frisk in NYC

This Op-Doc from the New York Times (which they don’t let you embed) pretty powerfully shows the effect of stop-and-frisk policies in New York City on young black men in the inner city, like Tyquan Brehon. Tyquan says he was stopped 60-70 times before his 18th birthday, and he’s not alone. Over 685,000 people were stopped and frisked last year, 87% of them African-American or Latino. The vast majority of those stopped and frisked – 88% – were not arrested or even ticketed. And what you see from this story is how that drives a culture of humiliation, or degradation. “If you’re with a lot of people, you’re a suspect automatically,” Tyquan says, and that has an impact on your self-image. When you’re treated like a criminal just for leaving the house and being outside, you tend to want to retreat. You build your own prison as a coping mechanism. And that’s really a stark limit to personal freedom.

A movement has finally begun to push back against the demeaning, and illegal, process of stop and frisk. Part of this is just to let young men of color know their rights – it’s illegal to stop someone or frisk someone without reasonable suspicion, yet it continues every day. At the legislative level, the New York City Council wants to increase oversight over the NYPD, for stop and frisk and other policies of targeting specific communities, with an inspector general. Predictably, Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to shield the NYPD from oversight. But it’s impossible to watch this video and say that the policy doesn’t need to be changed.

The coalition opposing stop and frisk broadened this week from merely civil rights and civil liberties groups, to include the LGBT community and the labor movement. This is an exciting possibility for a coalition to come together on a criminal justice issue that obviously strips people of their basic dignity. LGBT activists spoke in front of the famed Stonewall Inn against the practice earlier this week, and they will join a silent march against racial profiling on Sunday, Father’s Day.

Maybe New York City can stop harassing youth of color and go back to short-sightedly selling their parking meters or whatever else they want to do.

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David Dayen

David Dayen