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UFT joins thousands in march to end stop-and-frisk
Mulgrew: Bloomberg administration’s policy is racial profiling
by Micah Landau | June 28, 2012 New York Teacher issue
Some 500 UFT members joined thousands more labor and community members for a June 17 silent march against the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which UFT President Michael Mulgrew and other critics denounced as unjust and discriminatory.
Stop-and-frisk empowers police officers to randomly stop and question New Yorkers without cause, but the stops being made are not random: 87 percent of the nearly 700,000 people stopped last year were black or Latino, according to The New York Times.
In remarks during the march down Fifth Avenue from Harlem to the Upper East Side, Mulgrew blasted the biased practice, which he said “antagonizes entire communities” and leaves many minority youths, who are particularly likely to be stopped, feeling “angry, bitter and under siege.”
Mulgrew called the mayor’s stop-and-frisk policy “nothing more than racial profiling. It targets young men of color, young men who are our children and our students.”
Anthony Harmon, the union’s director of parent and community outreach, lamented the impact of stop-and-frisk on young people.
Minority males between the ages of 14 and 24 account for fully 42 percent of all stops under stop-and-frisk but make up a mere 5 percent of the city’s population, Harmon noted.
“Stop-and-frisk dehumanizes and demoralizes our young people,” he said.
Asked why the UFT had chosen to participate in the march, UFT Staff Director LeRoy Barr spoke of the union’s decades-long commitment to civil rights.
“Historically the UFT has always stood for social justice,” Barr said. “This is no different. It is the social justice issue of our time in this city. It is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, and violations such as this should not go unchecked.”
Both Harmon and Barr said that they had been stopped under stop-and-frisk.
Thomas Edison HS teacher and CTE representative Alexander Bell came to the march with his three brothers and a nephew. “I’m here because I’ve been stopped and frisked on more than one occasion,” he said. “I’ve been told I ‘fit the description.’ It’s despicable and disrespectful.”
Bell estimated that upward of 60 percent of the minority men among their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers had suffered the same injustice.
Always an educator, Bell also spoke about the importance of providing “positive reinforcement” for young people targeted by stop-and-frisk.
“If they’re not getting positive reinforcement from parents and relatives, they’re going to believe this is the way they are supposed to be treated,” he observed. “If you don’t stand up, changes don’t take place.”
Another teacher, Carol Walters from PS 370 in Brooklyn, came to the march out of a sense of solidarity with those targeted by stop-and-frisk. She described the practice as “ridiculous” and said that “it doesn’t do anything to help anyone.”
Instead of giving young people negative reinforcement by stopping them unjustly on the street, Walters said, “What the city needs to be doing is putting money back into summer employment programs and after-school programs, getting them ready to lead positive lives.”
Adhim DeVeaux, the UFT chapter leader at the Academy of History and Citizenship for Young Men in the Bronx, took a similar stance.
“We need to find better ways: more youth centers, more jobs for youth,” he said. “Patting down children and treating them like criminals will lead them to a life of crime.”
DeVeaux boiled it all down to two simple sentences.
“They’re criminalizing our youth,” he said. “It has to stop.”