On February 10th, Latoya Dixon, a 29-year-old, African American Muslim woman, was on her way to pick up her husband from work. When she got out of her car, she was stopped by a police officer who said she made a right on a red turn somewhere along her route. As she questioned the accusation, she claimed that she was pinned down, slammed, and arrested. Shesaid she ended up having a miscarriage and was subsequently hospitalized.
“They choked me, they put me on the floor, took off my jacket, and removed my Hijab (headscarf). I begged them, I told them I am Muslim, all I could do is cry,” said a tearful Dixon. “ I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to any sister or any Muslim woman.”
Dixon was one of hundreds of angry protesters, whose voices filled the air on a bleak Saturday afternoon, as they gathered at Mott Haven to march, in the pouring rain, against police brutality.
The march, called “Stop The Cops,” was organized by the February 23 coalition, a branch of the anti-racism group, A.N.S.W.E.R. The march was advertised via social media to protest “stop-and-frisk” police action against members of the African American, Muslim, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities.
“I am here fighting for my rights and for the rights of people who look like me,” said 24-year-old Emanuel Dilla, an African American protester. “I have friends who have been abused and beaten up by the police, they think just because they have a gun and a badge, they can do whatever they want.”
The march marks the one-year-anniversary of the shooting of unarmed teen, Ramarley Graham, by an NYPD officer in the bathroom of the victim’s Wakefield home. The case sparked a public outcry against police brutality.
“We will recognize the anniversary, not in silence but in action,” said the Feb 23 coalition on its website.
The ensemble made its way down, from 138th Street and 3rd Avenue in the Bronx, across the Harlem River, in a two-hour hike to 125th Street, under heavy NYPD presence. Carrying posters and placards that denounced the police’s “stop and frisk” policy and racial profiling, the protesters chanted, “NYPD. KKK. How many kids have you killed today?”
Earlier this month the NYPD released the Stop-and-Frisk statistics report for the year 2011, which underscored a broad public controversy about the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy and charges of racial profiling. The data showed that African American and Hispanic New Yorkers accounted for the majority of the nearly 700,000 stops for that year, 52.9 and 33.7 percent respectively.
Despite the public outcry, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has firmly supported “stop-and-frisk,” claiming it has contributed to the significant drop of violent crimes in the city during the past decade. The murder rate plunged to a record low at 414 homicides in 2012.
“Commissioner Kelly has adopted training and accountability policies to ensure that police officers conduct stops legally, appropriately, and respectfully,” said Bloomberg in his final State of the City address last week. “But make no mistake: We have a responsibility to conduct them and as long as I am mayor, we will not shirk from it.”
Saturday’s ‘Stop the Cops’ march ended with a promise of a reunion in Washington D.C. in April to continue the fight against police enforced racism and brutality. But until then, organizers asked the crowd to remain weary of any lash backs.
“Please go home in groups, do not stay alone until it’s safe, there is no knowing what they might do to you,” an organizer told marchers as they left the rally.