DEAFENING SILENCE: On June 17, thousands of New Yorkers marched silently from Harlem to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mansion in protest of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. The multiracial, cross-generational show of force united residents, local organizations, religious groups and unions in a resistance tactic first used by the NAACP in 1917.
Stop-and-frisks, in which the police temporarily detain and search people they deem suspicious, have increased by 600 percent since Bloomberg took office in 2002. Eighty-four percent of those stopped in 2011 were black or Latino, even though they comprise roughly 23 and 29 percent of the city’s population, respectively. Tairece Flowers, a 17-year-old from Washington Heights, was with the marchers. “A lot of people are very afraid to walk and be free,” he said. “They feel that the people who are supposed to be protecting them are actually bullying them.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the NYPD, alleging that its actions violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. “We’re asking for policy changes—and broad, far-reaching changes, citywide, for the entire police department,” said Darius Charney, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
The first quarter of 2012 marked the highest rate of stop-and-frisks to date. Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who continue to defend the policy, would be wise to listen to the communities they serve: they won’t march in silence forever. ANDREA JONES and MAX RIVLIN-NADLER
INTRODUCING VOTING RIGHTS WATCH: Last year State Senator Mike Bennett, the sponsor of Florida’s draconian HB 1355, told reporters, “I don’t have a problem making [voting] harder. I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert. This should not be easy.” If Bennett gets his way, voting in the Sunshine State will indeed be a lot harder, as reporter Brentin Mock documents in “Florida to Minorities: Don’t Vote Here.” Among other things, Bennett’s bill takes aim at early voting, as well as the voter registration drives organized by black churches and groups like the League of Women Voters.
In the face of these GOP-led efforts to curtail voting rights, The Nation and Colorlines.com have joined to create Voting Rights Watch 2012, a reporting project that will appear simultaneously in both outlets. Mock, along with community journalism coordinator Aura Bogado, will blog regularly on the war on democracy at thenation.com/blogs/voting-rights-watch. Look for their dispatches online and in these pages, as well as contributions from citizen journalists that the initiative will mobilize and train throughout the summer and into the 2012 election. RICHARD KIM