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Jerry Ashton Headshot

"Stop and Frisk" -- Tell Me Again, Who Is at Risk?

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If you care at all about civil liberties and correcting injustices, it's time to put your feet on the street!

The occasion is The Silent March Against Racial Profiling taking place this Sunday, June 17, here in NYC. Its purpose is to end stop and frisk. Your role (if you are local) is to show support and solidarity. (Details here.)

My personal take on Stop And Frisk is that it is a legal and immoral bookend to Stand Your Ground, insofar as both "legally sanctioned" laws are disproportionately applied to members of the black and Latino communities.

"Stop and frisk" is designed to search out weapons carried by such folk, while "stand your ground" protects gun owners who shoot down people from this same community. Concealed weapons in this group are sanctioned, of course.

For this interview, I caught up with one of the core organizers of this march, Leslie Cagan, a long-term NYC activist and veteran of hundreds of such efforts over the years, to get her take on this march and its importance.

For those of you who do not know of Leslie, she is an American activist, writer, and socialist organizer involved with the peace and justice moments. It would be hard to name any protest movements in the past 40+ years that she hasn't participated in, whether it be anti-war, anti-nuke, LGBT, feminist, and back in the day -- the Black Panthers.

Leslie holds this march to be of equal and significant importance to any of them.

95 Years Ago -- And Needed Again

Leslie put this into historical context by comparing this planned march down Fifth Avenue to an NAACP March held on that same street in 1917. The purpose then was to draw attention to race riots in East St. Louis and to build national opposition to lynching.

95 years later, the NAACP is joining with a broader coalition to call on Americans to put their "feet on the street" to pressure both governments and police to correct outrageous wrongs.

Both stand your ground and stop and frisk seem to base their legitimacy in the belief that we need "protection" from something... something so very dangerous that the police are enrolled as a tool and backstop to promote and perpetuate this belief.

Exactly what are we being protected from?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- the latest embodiment of the importance of "law and order" over civil rights, appeared at an African-American church last Sunday to defend stop and frisk. He went so far as to say that the law "saved lives."

Considering that of the hundreds of thousands of people stopped over the past several years, almost nine out of ten of these being non-white, firearms were discovered in only .003 percent of the cases. It can be argued that other purposes were more at play. Racism, anyone? Targeting, anyone?

As Leslie explained, the law's stated purpose is to be a deterrent to crime... but in pointed out that in Los Angeles, where there is no such practice, crime has actually dropped relative to NYC statistics.

For citizens who have been stopped and forcibly searched under Stop And Frisk, the experience is not only an invasion of their privacy and a public humiliation, but it undermines the trust between them and their community and the police.

Stop and frisk -- what is at risk?

If not changed, I would suggest the entire fabric of our society.

How much more evidence do we need that our police are manning the wrong side of the barricades? That not enough mayors are not marching for human and civil rights? That politicians are serving the NRA over the interests of their own constituency?

You have a role and responsibility in this. You just might get these "public servants" to change their tune if you serve as a good enough example. Allow your "feet on the street" to provide them with a large and powerful statement.

Can't be there? Get on the phone and get the mayor and council people on the line. Write letters to city hall, your governor, your politicians, your president.

Perhaps they will hear you now... "silent" parade notwithstanding.